Press Reports

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2017 Press Reports



The year 2017 started out with the good and the bad news !
The bad news is that Forest Park Hotel, Brockenhurst the present venue for the monthly meetings is being closed for approximately 6 months to allow for major renovation of the ground floor.  This is disappointing as the hotel has been the base for all meetings for most of the life of the Brockenhurst Rhinefield Probus Club.
The good news however is that The Balmer Lawn Hotel is to be our “home” from February until further notice and the committee are certain that club members will settle in well to their new venue
Since the last report there has also been the annual changes in the committee.
Ron Pearson is the new Chairman,
Alan Shipstone the Secretary carrying on the duties he took on following the untimely death of Desmond Waite
Social Events Organiser is Mike Gibson assisted by Charlie Fay.
Steve Wilks is the Treasurer
Francis Cumberlege the Speaker Secretary.
In normal circumstances there would be an element of continuity in the committee roles but due to the most unfortunate circumstances of two unexpected deaths, all the current officers are new to their roles.

At the January meeting antiques expert Peter Raw gave club members the challenge of valuing certain antique items he had brought along varying in value from a few pounds to tens of thousands. He gave members a margin of error in their estimates and awarded points for accuracy and near misses. He issued a score sheet for the ten pieces and then the fun began as he held up each piece, laconically described them and we wrote down our price estimates!  Most members were off target by a country mile and the writer achieved the unenviable total of zero points for the ten items. A very educating and sobering experience.


Such is the attraction of the New Forest that David Skillen the pre lunch speaker on March 15th was very happy to come all the way from Derbyshire with his wife in their motorhome just to talk to the members of Brockenhurst Rhinefield Probus about the struggle which Texas had in establishing their independence from Mexico
His talk was entitled “A line in the sand” which referred to events around the battle of the Alamo, a siege and on going battle fictionalised in the film starring John Wayne, Richard Widmark and Lawrence Harvey.Today, Texas, is an area twice that of the UK, but less than half the population.
Texas in the 19th century was large and fertile but with less than 20,000 citizens was very under populated and agents were paid to bring in settlers to farm and work in this territory, the governors of which had every intention of developing as an independent country in the future. Mexico however had other ideas.
Spain had owned Texas since 1519 and, before the influx of Europeans, was mainly populated by native Indians but Mexico had become independent of Spain in the early 1800’s and in 1824 wrote a new constitution including the ownership of Texas. This infuriated the people of Texas and the seeds of the later battles were sown.
Some well known characters were involved in this struggle for independence including James Bowie of the knife fame who was a known land grabber elsewhere in the US and had lost all his family to cholera and Davy Crockett a congressman from Tennessee attracted by the idea of being involved in developing a new country.
The Alamo was a walled area comprising former mission buildings with a large church at one end and although it was formidable as a defensive position, its one weakness was that the water supply was outside of the walls. This was a weakness that the Mexicans were to cruelly exploit in the ensuing siege which began when General Santa Anna crossed the Rio Grande on 23rd February 1836 with 1800 trained fighting soldiers.
The battle for possession of the Alamo began on 6th March 1836 at 5am and by 6.30 the Alamo was overrun by the Mexican Army and all the defenders were killed. Some were taken prisoner and then executed. All women and children were then allowed to go free.
Santa Anna then rode eastward to try to conquer the rest of Texas but was eventually defeated by General Sam Houston at San Jacinto and retreated to Mexico. Texas became part of the United States and the US army fought off later attempts by Mexico to annexe the State.

Richard Jeans gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the club.


It is very humbling when one hears that a very busy top medical surgeon is prepared to spend two weeks at his own expense travelling to Africa to give free treatment to needy impoverished citizens of some of the poorest countries in the world.

The subject of this month’s talk at Rhinefield Probus was Mercy Ships and given by Dr Richard Newsome an eye specialist who lives in Brockenhurst.

Africa Mercy is the largest hospital ship in the world and spends about 9 months at a time moored in an African port whilst the volunteer doctors, dentists and nurses carry out much needed medical procedures on patients from that country and often beyond as those in need sometimes cross borders to get the treatment they require.

The ship, a former Danish Ferry, is manned , maintained and operated almost entirely voluntarily and the monies required to pay for some crew, fuel, port dues, repairs, security etc at $1 million per month is given by donations from large corporations, individuals and trusts. It is a massive undertaking but one that changes the lives of so many in countries where extreme poverty and the lack of any State healthcare denies the majority the attention they need.

In Benin  there is only one doctor per ten thousand  people and as all medical care is costly and unaffordable most of the population never see a doctor.

The ship carries state of the art equipment, has accommodation for 400 patients and has 5 operating theatres each with two operating tables to increase the number of procedures. Whilst one operation is taking place the adjoining table is made ready with the next patient. In the cases of eye surgery for cataracts of which there is a great need due to many factors including sunlight, diabetes and general poor health, Dr Newsome, for example, will carry out ten to twelve operations each morning compared with four per morning in the UK.

The ship also has a fleet of Land Rover type vehicles to travel to clinics which run simultaneously on shore and such is the level of crime, security is required for all these journeys. To select the cases that require surgery on the ship, a football stadium will be used and is always full of those hoping for treatment. The patients are divided up into categories – dental, eye, orthopaedic etc and the selection is made on the basis of most need. The cases with the longest recovery time and needing follow up, such as limb operations are operated on in the first part of the nine months during which the ship stays in the port.

Whilst the ship is at a location, training is given to local volunteers to enable some basic medical care to be given once the ship has departed.

This ship fulfils such a necessary requirement for medical treatment in these underdeveloped countries but the tragedy is that the need is so great that only a small proportion of those requiring treatment can be helped.

Dr Newsome donated his fee for the talk to Mercy ships and after the talk the Probus  members made additional contributions to that very noble organisation. Francis Cumberlege gave the vote of thanks to Dr Newsome.

The Rhinefield Probus Club meets on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst The meetings comprise coffee on arrival, a short business meeting followed by a speaker and then lunch.

Details can be found on our website or telephone 01590 540040.


The November meeting of The Brockenhurst Rhinefield Probus was the Annual General Meeting at which the outgoing chairman Ronald Pearson thanked members for their support of the many successful activities held during the year and handed over to his successor Paul Boynton, the incoming chairman for the 2017/18 year.

Kathy McNally then gave a talk on “Spying – the Great Game” and commenced with a quotation from Somerset Maugham about the secret service “if you do well you’ll get no thanks and if you get into trouble you’ll get no help”. He should know, as in 1916 at the age of 42 he was recruited into the British Secret Service.

There have always been spies and of course the most famous of all is the fictional James Bond who was not a spy at all but a secret agent. Like a spy however he operated in plain clothes and therefore if caught would not be covered by the Geneva Convention and could be tried for espionage and executed as an unlawful combatant.

There is great respect throughout the world for the British secret service promoted somewhat by best selling authors of spy novels such as Graham Greene, John Le Carre and Ian Fleming all of whom have worked for MI5 or MI6.

MI5 is responsible for protection of the UK from outside influences and MI6 covers “information gathering” otherwise known as spying.

The most notorious spy ring operated against the UK from within was the Cambridge three, Guy Burgess, Kim Philby and Donald Maclean, aided to escape when discovered by a fourth man later identified as Anthony Blunt. All four were Cambridge graduates and accepted members of the establishment who met at university and were all communist sympathisers. They worked for the secret services but operated on behalf of Russia and were thought to be above suspicion because of their background. When the three were eventually exposed they were warned by Blunt and escaped to Russia to live out their lives. They partially got their just deserts however as they missed the culture of the west and hated living in Moscow. Blunt was later identified as part of the spy ring but got immunity from prosecution in exchange for revealing the names of other spies.

Spymasters or “handlers” can wield immense power. Aldrich Ames who worked for the CIA in such a role was in fact spying for Russia and gave them the names of many US agents working in Russia which resulted in up to 150 arrests and many executions.

Nowadays industrial espionage and hacking into the computer systems of both industrial companies and national databases is proving a developing challenge which seems quite mundane compared with the exploits of James Bond 007.

John Cropp gave the vote of thanks on behalf of the members.

The Rhinefield Probus Club meets on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst The meetings comprise coffee on arrival, a short business meeting followed by a speaker and then lunch.

New members are always welcome.

Details can be found on our website or telephone 01590 540040.

2018 Press Reports


The post New year period has been a very busy one for Brockenhurst Rhinefield Probus with two of the usual monthly Forest walks, lunching at MJ’s in Brockenhurst College (and what a splendid meal the students produced ! ),   a skittles evening at Hoborne Bashley, and two of the most interesting monthly talks.
The most recent talk given by Dr Graham Whitham an art historian on the subject of “Two Weddings and a Funeral” was totally absorbing, completely unrelated to the film of the same title, and covered an expert’s interpretation of five historical paintings.With the help of projections, Dr Whitham who is a retired University lecturer on the history of art , began his talk analysing a huge oil painting by the Italian artist Veronese, not his real name which was Paulo Caliari but a “stage name” he adopted as he came from Verona.This enormous canvas entitled The Wedding Feast was commissioned in 1563 by the Monastery of San Giorgio  in Venice and installed in the  Refrectory . The painting was however looted by Napoleon and now sits in the Louvre in Paris. It quite clearly illustrated the opulence of the wealthy Venetians and depicts a wedding feast attended by about 130 guests, all individually recognisable including the bride and groom to one side and centre canvas was Jesus, Mary and the Disciples. As was the custom at that time the artist included himself amongst the diners along with Titian and Tintoretto.
By contrast The Peasant Wedding by Pieter Bruegel is an oil painting which depicts a peasant celebration with what appears to be gruel being served, a single piper providing the music and simply dressed guests.Much controversy has arisen over the Van Eyck painting entitled The Arnolfini Portrait painted in 1434 which shows Giovanni Arnolfini and his wife.  The dress seems to show her as pregnant but the fashion was to hold a dress in this way, was it painted after her death and was it a wedding at all ?The Rakes Progress by Hogarth is an altogether different category of painting showing scenes from the descent of a dissolute youth from inherited wealth into death including the marriage of convenience to an older woman aimed at maintaining his reckless lifestyle.
The final painting is a funeral scene. The burial of Count of Organz by El Greco completed in 1588 depicted, with contemporary mourners, a burial which took place 250 years earlier. It is such a complex canvas that a whole book was written analysing every aspect.

Mike Gibson gave a vote of thanks on behalf of the members.

The Rhinefield Probus Club meets on the 3rd Wednesday of each month at the Balmer Lawn Hotel in Brockenhurst . Details can be found on our website