Welcome to our Club

Dr. Sue Turner - The not-so-humble potato

Dr. Turner gave us a most fascinating and informative talk about the origins of the potato in South America.

She explained how the wild potato is poisonous, but was adapted by the indigenous people of South America to form the staple of their diet for hundreds of years.

The coming of the conquistadors led to the export of the potato to Spain, and its spread throughout Europe, where it is now a major contributor to everyone's diet.

Dr. Turner went on to discuss some of the problems that come with potato cultivation, and focused on the reasons for the Great Potato Famine that hit Ireland in the late 1840s.

She identified the importance of both cultural and climatic conditions in the development of blight, and then developed her argument to pose the question about the future of potato cultivation in a period of global warming.

Dr. Taylor suggested that there were likely to be two possible consequences for potato growers in the UK. One would be the increased risk of the Colorado Beetle becoming established in the UK. The second problem she identified was that changes in climate might make the country too warm for the successful cultivation of our favourite vegetable.

Following Dr. Turner's talk, we all settled down to enjoy our Christmas lunch, which, of course, featured roast potatoes prominently.

The Christmas lunch was a great success, with over seventy members and friends attending.

Welcome to our Club

Peter Webb - Customs and Excise

Peter took us through the long history of smuggling, especially in this part of the world, and spoke of the Hawkhurst and Goudhurst gangs, which could assemble five hundred men in an hour, without the benefit of the internet or mobile phones.

Peter went on to describe the modern work of the Excise men, and their role in trying to prevent smuggling gangs and human traffikers breaking the law.

Peter was at pains to point out that there was nothing romantic about modern smugglers. Many were unscrupulous men and women who had no regard for the safety of the general public.

He emphasised that it wasn't about the occasional bottle of wine, but the crate of oranges, all injected with cocaine that could kill children if the crate found its way onto a market stall by accident.

Club AGM

As usual, the membership was most grateful for the efforts of the committee over the last year, and thanked them for their work.

Chairman David Walshe agreed to continue in office for a second year and was roundly applauded for his decision.

Gail Pain was confirmed as vice president, with the expectation that she will become president at the end of 2017.

Long serving treasurer Mike Nightingale said that the time had come for him to stand down. He had been treasurer for 17 years, since the club was founded. Chairman David thanked him for all his work over the years.

Colin Saunders was elected to take over the treasurer's role.

Secretary David Walker agreed to continue in office and was confirmed in post.

Speaker Secretary Geoff Croxford agreed to serve another year, and the Chairman paid tribute to his success in arranging a range of good, interesting speakers over the past year.

Committee members Mike Hockley and Peter Whitstone stood down after completing their two year stint in office.

John Burbidge and Tony Pearlman were duly elected as committee members.

Michael Smith - Tom Crean, Artic Explorer

Mike gave us a fascintaing talk about one of the unsung heroes of Antartic exploration.


Mick Smith

Crean was a physically strong and invariably cheerful man, and his intelligence and judgement led to his promotion to become Scott's number two.


Tom Crean

On the last, fatal trip, Crean was sent to manage the food bases for the return journey, rather than join Scott on the final stage to reach the pole. This action saved Crean's life, and his return to the base camp was an adventure of its own. Despite poor health, Crean insisted on being part of a rescue mission to find out what had happened to Scott, and was a member of the party that found the bodies and erected an ice memorial over them.


Scott's Grave

Undaunted by the trauma of his voyages with Scott, Crean signed up with Shackleton for his expedition, as his second in command. He was part of the group that made the epic voyage from Elephant Island to South Georgia, and crossed the unexplored central mountains of the interior to reach the whaling station on the north coast. From there, Crean was involved in the rescue of the other members of the expedition left on Elephant Island.

At the end of these adventures, when most people would be retiring and putting their feet up, Crean rejoined the navy and served from 1916 to the end of the war.


The South Pole Inn

Crean opened a pub, called the South Pole Inn and spoke very little about his adventures to anyone, including his own family, perhaps because the beginnings of Irish nationalism in 1916 exposed anyone with links to the British military to the danger of summary execution. Indeed, Crean's brother, a policeman, was killed by Irish nationalists.

Mike's talk was fascinating and enthralling, holding everyone's attention and showing how apparently ordinary men from simple backgrounds could become players on the world stage and accomplish great things

Click here to visit Mike's website.

Hypo Hounds - Jane Pearman

It was the first presentation Jane has given, though she spoke with such confidence, no one would have realised.


Jane Pearman

Jane gave a brief history of the health problems that her daughter, Sophie, has with Type 1 diabetes, and how they found a puppy, Scooby, who they hoped would be able to alert them when Sophie's sugar levels dropped. Scooby was only eight weeks old when this first happened.

Now fully grown, Scooby has been trained as an Alert dog and has already alerted Sophie's parents to a sudden dip in Sophie's blood sugar levels that meant she was on the edge of dipping into a life threatening diabetic coma.


Sophie and Scoobie

Following Sophie and Scooby's story becoming public knowledge at Crufts, Jane set up Hypo Hounds after overwhelming pleas for help from the parents of other Diabetic Children that had no one to turn to for support and training.

Hypo Hounds now have 6 dogs in training, all residing in Kent and all alerting their owners to diabetic episodes in their children. Even the newest recruit, Rosie, who is 13 weeks old is alerting.

Click here to find out more about Hypo Hounds.

Richard Lustey

Jill Hutchinson

Our speaker on August 4th was retired Tenterden councillor Jill Hutchinson.

Jill described the highlights of thirty years of public service, as a councillor, first in Tonbridge, and subsequently in Ashford.

In Tonbridge, Jill was Mayor from 1987-88

Jill described the way she fell into local government, almost by chance, and found herself elected very shortly after expressing an interest in local politics.

She listed a number of activities that had engaged her during her time in local government. The education of children, especially those with educational disabilities, were especially dear to her.

After a number of years on Tonbridge council, Jill and her husband relocated to Tenterden, and Jill thought she had finished her local authority career. However, she was soon buttonholed by the local conservative party, and served as Ashford Borough Councillor for the Tenterden South ward.

Jill stood down from the council in 2015.

Bob Ogley - The Ghosts of Biggin Hill

Bob proved to be an excellent speaker. He told us about the wartime exploits of individual pilots of the squadron, the operations they flew out of the airfield and the individuals who became known as "The Few".

Here are the pilots of 32 Squadron who were stationed at Biggin Hill for eight years and easily the longest serving. The 32 Squadron diary survives in the Biggin Hill archives.

Bob told us many anecdotes about the pilots, the squadron, and their wartimne adventures.

Click here to find out more about Bob and his books

Annual Dinner

The 17th of June saw many members of Probus, with wives and partners attend the Annual Dinner at Chart Hills Golf Club.

Besides an excellent meal, the guests were kept on their toes by a most demanding quiz compiled by Debbie Greaves, which had everyone scratching their heads from starter to dessert.

President David Walshe welcomed the guests, especially Ginnie Dixon, and entertained everyone with a most amusing speech.

As usual, the event was brilliantly catered by the Chart Hills and thanks go to Mark and his team for all their efforts.

Peter Knott - A Life in Jewellery

Well known local businessman Peter Knott was our speaker at our June meeting. Peter was the founder of the club.

Peter spoke to the club about his lifetime experience in the jewellery trade. He spent his formative years working in jewellers in the London suburbs learning his trade. he gained experience as a clock and watch maker, as well as a gemmologist, and spent some time as a representative of a jewellery firm travelling the south of England

One such trip brought him to White's the Jewellers in Tenterden.

Later, when Peter decided it was time to open his own shop, he remembered Tenterden and his visit to White's. As the previous owner was retiring he took over the shop in 1981, and the rest is history.

Peter has been an active member of the Tenterden community since his arrival in the town.

His very amusing talk was well received by his audience.

Wilf Lower - Life on the Wicked Stage

Wilf made a return visit to Tenterden Probus Club in May.

His topic this time was the development of television. Wilf took us through the background of numerous popular entertainers, showing how many of the early stars of television had their roots in Repertory Theatre, Variety and the seaside summer season.

He took us all down memory lane, with reminiscences of unknown artistes that he had seen grow into television personalites in the golden years of television.

Wilf decribed in amusing detail the catastrophes that befell well known stars in the days when many TV programmes were broadcast live.

Cook - Dale Penfold

Our April guest speaker was Dale Penfold, one of the two founder members of Cook, the company that aims to produce frozen food made as you would make it at home.

He described his introduction to the world of catering, from peeling potatoes in the merchant navy to catering for bank directors in their banqueting suite.

He explained how his background helped when he set Cook up with a friend, and his initial difficulties creating menus that could be frozen satisfactorily and still taste home made when cooked at home.

Dale took us through the history of the company, and the emphasis from the beginning on fresh ingredients cooked by hand. He described the ups and downs of developing and running a business, and the effects of the financial collapse on the fledgling business.

Dale also introduced us to his company's philosophy of staff involvement in the running of the company.

It was a fascinating talk about the growth and philosophy of a local business. Click here for more information about Cook

Mike Mulley - Oil of Brazil.

In March, our speaker was Mike Mulley.

Mike gave a fascinating insight into the problems of drilling for and collecting oil from off-shore installations.

He described the vast expense of convertng ships to be oil collection platforms for the network of undersea wells drilled off the Brazilian coast, and the husge costs of bringing the oil ashore.

Mike emphasised the importance of safety in all aspects of the oil exploration and exploitation world and spoke with pride of the fact that this huge project had been accomplished without injury or loss of life.

In February, our speaker was Tony Saunders.

Tony gave a most interesting talk about the life and career of Louis Blériot, the famous cross channel pilot.

Blériot (1 July 1872 – 1 August 1936) started his working life as an engineer, developing a highly successful. headlamp for the developing automotive industry.

His company was very successful and he became rich enough to indulge his passion for aviation.

His early planes had mixed success.

He was injured several times whilst testing his inventions.

In 1909 he attempted a cross channel flight for the prize of £1,000 offered by the Daily Mail newspaper.

He took off from Calais, and had difficulty navigating to Dover because of strong winds.

His landing didn't go quite as smoothly as planned.

His success as the first man to fly the channel made his name and fortune and he went on to develop a successful aircraft manufacturing company.

Peter Webb - Fighting Corruption with the IMF

Our January speaker was member Peter Webb.

In a most amusing talk, he described some of the more extreme examples of corruption he had come across in his career, and the occasional physical danger his investigations had produced.

Being shot at in Ghana and having his car rammed in the Ukraine were two of the more extreme examples of the difficulties he faced whilst trying to make sure IMF funds were spent properly, and not siphoned off into unscrupulous people's pockets.

Despite the drama and real sense of danger of his work, Peter reduced us to helpless laughter with his accounts of the more extreme adventures he had experienced.

Christmas Lunch

The Probus lunch was excellent and there was a record turnout with over 70 members and wives attending. Everyone seemed to enjoy themselves and the speaker Peter Mawson was outstanding.

The meeting was tinged with sadness, following the sudden death of President Jon Dixon.


Jon Dixon

Jon was a larger than life character, full of warmth and enthusiasm for everything he undertook and always willing to offer the hand of friendship to newcomers to the community.

We remember the way he worked to energise the club, arranging outings and lunches for members, and encouraging everyone to attend. Our full membership list and the record attendance at our lunch is a tribute to all his efforts. Memories of his smile and welcome at meetings will always be with us.

Besides his presidency of Probus, Jon was an active supporter of Tenterden Lions club for whom he worked with characteristic enthusiasm.

Jon was a lifelong supporter of Watford football club, and shared his love of football with a group of friends, regularly travelling to see them play at home.

He was a keen country music fan, especially the music of Johnny Cash, and was very knowledgeable about the history of the Wild West.

He was a connoisseur of whisky, having a large collection of miniatures from all over the world.

Jon will be greatly missed by all who were fortunate enough to know him, and our heartfelt sympathies go to Ginnie and the family.

Peter Mawson - Trombones in Tenterden

“Peter Mawson gave a first class talk on his life up to now. He was born in Stoke-on- Trent and spent his early childhood there.


Peter Mawson

“Trombones in Tenterden” had, of course, all of us guessing as to how he was bringing this subject into the conversation. In fact he is a classical Trombonist having qualified at the Royal College of Music where he met his future wife who was also studying there. What was extraordinary was that his family were not at all musical and they were very surprised to find that a son of theirs actually enjoyed playing the trombone.

Having played with orchestras in London and at the Royal Opera House, he moved to Bromley where he became a peripatetic teacher. He then felt the call of Christianity and became a Baptist Minister in which he has found great satisfaction and happiness.

About two years ago he was asked to take over the ministry in Tenterden of Trinity Baptist Church and absolutely loves the town and people.

His speech was littered with anecdotes of his life and the people he has met which were fascinating and very enjoyable to listen to. A great speaker and an inspiring individual.”

Katie Stossel - A Handful of Heroes, Rorke's Drift: Facts, Myths and Legends

Drawn from the research for her recent book, Katie Stossel gave us an illustrated account of the many myths that have sprung up about the famous encounter between the Zulu and British forces at Rorke's drift, from her recent book.

Many of us had thought we knew the history of the conflict from watching the film Zulu, but Katie pointed out that many of the details in the film were not factually accurate after all.

The regiment wasn't the Welsh Borderers, but B Company, the 2nd Battalion, 24th (2nd Warwickshire) Regiment of Foot. This regiment was absorbed into the Welsh Borderers at a later date, and their history became part of the new regiment's history

The singing of "Men of Harlech", an anthem associated with the Welsh Borderers was also a myth, the regiment singing "A Shropshire Lad", their own regimental song.

Similarly, the great anthem and salute of the Zulu to the survivors of Rorke's Drift is another myth re-imagined for the cinema.

Whilst it is good to learn the fascinating truth of the history of the battle, there is always a slight tinge of sadness when the heroic cinematic exploits of our heroes are revealed as myths and legends.

Michael Smith: 'Antarctic Explorer'.

On September 3rd, Michael Smith presented a fascinating talk about the life & exploits of Sir Ernest Shackleton.

He took us through Shackleton's early life and schooling, explaining how he never really found a niche for himself in society.

We heard of Shackleton's problems with the Royal Geographical Society and the difficulties in acquiring funding for his expeditions, as he always seemed to be competing with the more established Scott.

Michael told us of Shackleton's disastrous business affairs, and his many mistresses.


Sir Ernest Shackleton in 1917

He told us how Shackleton found a route to the south pole, and travelled to within 90 miles of it, but shortage of supplies meant he had to turn back or perish on the return journey. The team reached their base with no more than a couple of hours to spare, seriously malnourished and in danger of their lives.

Finally, we heard of the dreadful catastrophe that struck Shackleton when his ship, the Endurance, was trapped by ice in the Weddell Sea as he prepared to cross the Antarctic via the south pole. The Endurance was crushed by the ice and sank. The crew managed to launch the lifeboats and sailed to Elephant Island. From there, Shackleton took a small boat 700 miles to South Georgia, where he managed to find a ship to return and rescue the rest of his party.

Shackleton died of a heart attack in 1921, whilst undertaking a further expedition. He was buried in South Georgia.

If you would like more information about Michael Smith and his books on Polar Exploration, click here.

Wilf Lower - 'The Golden Years of Television'

On Thursday 6th August, we were delighted to welcome back Wilf Lower.

We had already heard his excellent talk on the history of Variety Theatre, and he returned to give us an insight into his time with the BBC, when he was Scenic Operations manager on productions ranging from Top of the Pops to Dad's Army.

He took us through the Golden Age of television when Saturday night audiences were in tens of millions and there were only two or three television channels.

His knowledge and insight into the making of the programmes and the development of television kept us all enthralled for over an hour and we were all sorry when his talk came to an end. You can reach Wilf at: euroevent@btinternet.com

If you would like more information about Tenterden Probus,
contact us by e-mail: tenterden.probus@gmail.com.