Speaker Events

Each year we approach speakers across a wide and varied selection of subjects to talk at our meetings. Some of these will be on topics of local interest, whilst others will be on more general subjects or from further afield. This year is no exception.

Find out more details about all the speakers for the 2024-25 season below.

Please bear in mind that speakers may be liable to change, sometimes at the last minute, often due to unforeseen circumstances.

Tuesday 8th October 2024

Recollections Backchat

– Ashleigh Cooper

With both London and West Yorkshire providing key location elements, Ashleigh takes us on a whistle-stop tour of amusing and interesting moments & stories through his varied working life as an antiques and second-hand dealer.

Ashley has spent a varied career in the antiques and second-hand business.

Tuesday 22nd October 2024

The English Civil War in West Yorkshire

– Michael Crowley

Michael describes the events of the English Civil War in the context of Bradford, Leeds and Halifax, as well as the Battle of Adwalton Moor. We will hear about the key individual commanders as well as the involvement of ordinary soldiers.

Michael is an author and dramatist with a particular interest in the Civil War. In 2019 he was commissioned by Sky Arts to write and direct a large-scale community play about the 1643 ‘Battle of Heptonstall.’ In 2021 Smokestack Books published his collection of poetry under the same title. He is actively involved in Friends of Heptonstall Museum and artistic director of The Brutish Multitude Theatre Company.

Tuesday 5th November 2024

Harrison – The Uneducated Yorkshire Genius

– Dr.Julian Somerville

In 1707 the Royal Navy suffered one of its most serious maritime disasters when a squadron heading home from war in the Mediterranean foundered on rocks off the Scilly Isles with the loss of four ships and around 1800 sailors because they had miscalculated their position at sea. This was just one of several such similar episodes. Position at sea was established using latitude and longitude and while calculating latitude was relatively easy longitude was not as it required complicated astronomical observations. It was known longitude could more easily be calculated using a clock (explained how in the talk) but clocks in those days were far too inaccurate to be of any value. The government introduced the Longitude Act in 1714 offering a ge monetary award to anyone who could find a ‘practicable’ way of accurately establishing Longitude at sea. The talk describes how John Harrison, a carpenter of humble origins from Yorkshire who had no schooling, spent years constructing pendulum clocks despite never having had any instruction in clockmaking and how he modified his designs to make his clocks suitable for ships at sea. The lowly origins and lack of education of this northerner didn’t fit well with the London-centric scientific establishment of the day and the talk illustrates the difficulties the Yorkshireman encountered in his efforts to get both himself and his clocks taken seriously and the attempts by the elite scientists to ensure he would never be awarded the coveted prize.

Born in Dublin; moved to England with parents after the War; went to school in Kent. From school returned to Dublin to study medicine at Trinity College Dublin; while at Trinity College met Dione, a fellow medical student; married after graduating as doctors in 1970. After completing hospital intern year in Dublin Julian undertook medical research resulting in the award of a Doctorate degree in Medicine and subsequently became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh. Julian appointed consultant surgeon in urology in 1985, and Dione consultant anaesthetist, both working in the NHS in Halifax. Now retired for several years. Julian and Dionne have a son and a daughter.

Tuesday 19th November 2024

Speke Hall – A Brief History of the Hall & Its Inhabitants

– Roy Wainwright

Following his retirement, Roy started to volunteer with the National Trust, initially at Speke Hall. Shortly after starting as a volunteer, he did a conservation course with the trust. During this time they realized he had a keen interest in Photography and asked him to join the team at Hardman House in Liverpool to help with some conservation work. He did – and never left. Since then he has been a Room Guide at both properties as well as getting involved with Conservation projects the most recent is working on the E. Chambré Hardman photograph collection cleaning and rehousing many of his images. He also enjoys giving talks related to both properties.

Roy retired from Local Government in 2009, where he was a Divisional Manager. He is, as already mentioned, a keen amateur photographer and is currently the President of the St. Helens Camera Club.

Tuesday 3rd December 2024

History Above Your Head – England’s Story Through It’s Inn Signs

– Michael Astrop

Join us for this very popular talk about the inn signs of England. Pubs were rarely named by accident but were inspired by religion, royalty, heroes and the occasional scandal. This highly visual talk explains how inn signs originate and traces England’s history from the Romans to the present day.

Michael has been giving talks about historical subjects for about 15 years. He had a management training consultancy until his retirement two years ago, and he has the ability to look at a subject for the interested, but not expert audience.

Tuesday 17th December 2024

Glenn Miller – The Man and His Music

– Brian Furness

Glen Miller was an American Big Band leader who conducted, arranged, composed and played the trombone. In 1942 he enlisted in the American Army and formed a band to raise money for the American War effort. On a foggy afternoon, the 15th February 1944, he left England heading for Paris. The plane vanished over the English channel and was not seen again. This talk is almost 80 years to the day since his plane vanished.

After a working lifetime in the manufacturing industry, in retirement Brian turned his attention to the recording and archiving aspects of local history. Amongst other positions he holds, he is chairman of Whitworth Historical Society & Museum.

Tuesday 7th January 2025

Made in Manchester

– Brian Groom

Made in Manchester is the story of England’s second city. The metropolis which expanded industry and commerce to all others and whose culture is celebrated globally. Would this lead to poverty or starvation? The story of a pre-industrial Roman Fort to the cosmopolitan culture of today. Manchester was a hotbed for politics. Produced Scientists, Campaigners, Authors, Artists and Musicians. Through economic decline and recovery can Manchester live up to its early promise and can it still do so today?

Brian is a Journalist and a leading expert on British regional and national affairs. His career was spent mainly at the Financial Times, where he was assistant editor and worked in various capacities. He is also a former editor of Scotland on Sunday which he launched as deputy editor and won many awards. Originally from Stretford, Lancashire, he returned to the North in 2015.

Tuesday 21st January 2025

From Nuclear Fission to Chicken Poo

– Ken Blake

Exploring the changes in power generation since 1964.

Ken started his working life as an apprentice electrician but went on to design transformers and spent 30 years in automation. He retired as European Manager, Power Generation working for BP.

Tuesday 4th February 2025

Those Cragg Vale Coiners

– David Glover

An illustrated look at the story of the Coiners, beginning with the Hartley family of Bell House. This is followed by an emphasis on the investigation into the Coiners’ conduct, including a murder committed by their associates in Halifax. Prosecution, punishment and a series of executions would follow. Details are included of Halifax tradesmen directly involved in the scheme.

A Londoner by birth, David is now a well-established Yorkshireman. His love of natural history has led him to become a widely respected presenter of Illustrated Historical Lectures and Slideshows. David is currently President of Halifax Antiquarian Society, Vice-chair of Halifax Civic Trust and Chair of Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery. He is also a guide for Calderdale Heritage Walks and is also senior historical guide at Halifax Minster.

Tuesday 18th February 2024

Nostalgia: Part II

– Peter Watson

After his greatly received talk last season, Peter returns to take us back down memory lane once again with a wide & diverse collection of items, products and memorabilia from the 1950s and 1960s.

Peter has been a Freelance Lecturer and Public Speaker for 44 years.

Tuesday 4th March 2025

The Story of Hollingworth Lake

– Iain Bowden

Iain will be talking about Hollingworth Lake, which started life as a canal reservoir and went on to become known as “The Weavers’ Seaport”, an attraction that drew visitors from across Lancashire & Yorkshire in the 1800s due mainly, he believes, to the efforts of Henry Newall who lived in Hare Hill.

Iain’s family come from Littleborough and in the 1800s were dyers owning two mills in Littleborough. He became involved with a group trying to save a former manor house called Hare Hill, set in Hare Hill Park, in 2012. The House is still officially owned by the Newall family who were one of the areas main landowners and employers for 450 years. The House later became the town hall and council offices for Littleborough LUDC and after became offices for Rochdale BC. Iain is Chairman of the group and also the House Historian.

Tuesday 18th March 2025

British Widows of WW1 – The Forgotten Legion

– Andrea Heatherington

Over 200,000 British women were widowed as a result of the First World War and their experiences provide an insight into attitudes towards women and welfare in early 20th century Britain. Their stories have rarely been told, Britain’s First World War widows becoming the Forgotten Legion. Using letters and first-hand accounts from widows themselves Andrea Hetherington’s book shows how the loss impacted upon their lives. For this talk, Andrea will use examples from the local area to illustrate the challenges widows faced in dealing with the Ministry of Pensions and in their struggle to make new lives after their bereavement.

Andrea is a writer and researcher with a particular interest in the social history of the First World War. Based in Leeds, Andrea combines a career as a part-time criminal defence solicitor with that of an increasingly full-time historian.

As well as being the author of three books on the First World War – Lawnswood’s Great War Stories (Friends of Lawnswood Cemetery, 2015), Britain’s First World War Widows- the Forgotten Legion (Pen and Sword, 2018) and Deserters of the First World War – the Home Front (Pen and Sword, 2021) – she has also contributed chapters to several anthologies. Andrea is also the Book Reviews Editor for the Western Front Association.

Andrea has provided consultancy services to a number of Great War commemorative projects and conducted research for several strands of BBC programming. She is a regular speaker at a wide range of venues and enjoys helping people frame their own family and local history in a wider historical context.

Tuesday 1st April 2025


– Chrys Treththanmor

Bhutan is called the ‘Kingdom of Happiness’. Valleys carve through the tree-lined mountains and the landscape is full of beautiful temples and castles. The people value their traditional ways and revere their royal family. Join us for a fully illustrated talk about this fascinating country, during which Chrys will also explain why she did not participate in the fire blessing ceremony!

Chrys Tremththanmor is the Clergy Training Officer for the Diocese of Peterborough, Church of England. When she’s not busy assisting clergy in their training and development, she likes to write fantasy novels and travel the world with her camera in hand.

Tuesday 15th April 2025

Not Just Cotton Magnates: The Fieldens’ Property Portfolio

– Anne Mealia

Even from an early stage in the development of Fielden Brothers, property holding brought in a substantial part of their income, both individually and as part of the business. This talk looks at the extent of their property holdings which goes well beyond the homes they lived in and the iconic buildings we associate with them. It includes property in Todmorden and further afield.

Anne Mealia is a professional genealogist and historical researcher and has been running her own business, Evergreen Ancestry, for over ten years. She is a member of the Association of Genealogists and Researchers in Archives and has carried out research for Who Do You Think You Are and was Archives Researcher for the Channel 4 documentary The Queen’s lost family. She is a guide with Calderdale Heritage Walks and regularly leads walks in the Todmorden area.

Tuesday 29th April 2025



The 2024-25 season concludes with our Annual General Meeting, all welcome.