ELHAS News - October 2017

Meeting Report October 2017

For our October meeting we welcomed storyteller and raconteur Noel Moroney with his fascinating talk "Past Times in West Yorkshire". Noel, who spent many years working in the textile industry in West Yorkshire, explained that he had turned his hand to speaking engagements after he retired some ten years ago. He was encouraged to do this by his daughters who also urged him to write down the stories and anecdotes he was so fond of telling. Whilst he is now well established on the speaker's circuit the writing is still a 'work in progress' with over 28,000 words completed so far. Fortunately for him his stint in the RAF taught him to touch type at 100 words per minute!! .

He began his talk, which was a delightful mixture of stories from around the Bradford area, by telling us he had been married in St Martin's church at Brighouse. He then went on to say that this church has the distinction of having been paid for by Napoleon Bonaparte. The reason for this was that after defeating Bonaparte at Waterloo in 1815, the Duke of Wellington copied Bonaparte's practise of demanding reparation from his defeated enemy. He thus secured a large sum of money, which the government of the day declined to accept, and passed it on to the Church of England. This money was then used to build churches in poorer parts of the country, and the town of Brighouse was one of the lucky recipients.

Another of his tales was about the Halifax gibbet, the forerunner of the French guillotine. He explained that this macabre instrument of justice was only used on special market days in order to ensure that there would be a large crowd to witness the executions. He described how the only man to escape the gibbet was subsequently recaptured, retried and executed on the morning of his capture. The authorities doubtless wanting to ensure that he had no more opportunity for escape. Noel furnished us with many unusual snippets of information about buildings and people we were already familiar with, for example the Piece Hall in Halifax, one of England's finest buildings in its day, was built by the Hope brothers, ancestors of Camilla, Duchess of Cambridge. And the gannex material used in the famous raincoats worn by Harold Wilson and Nikita Khrushchev to name but two, was also fashioned into coats for the Queen's corgis.

One of his most amusing stories concerned Joseph Jagger, a mechanic from Shelf, who inspired the music hall song 'The Man who Broke the Bank at Monte Carlo'. Jagger worked out that the mechanical limitations of the roulette wheel meant that it would have a propensity to display some numbers more that others. Having spent a couple of nights viewing a particular wheel in the casino, he returned to effectively 'Break the Bank', coming away with two million francs. His legacy remains to this day, in that casinos now follow the practise of changing roulette wheels around after every day's playing to ensure that no one can work out the probability of numbers coming up.

We thoroughly enjoyed Noel's entertaining tales, made all the more interesting by his personal connection to them, and as always his stories sparked contributions from his appreciative audience.

The next meeting on Monday 27th November 2017 will be an illustrated talk by Geoffrey Forster entitled "The Creation of a Victorian Best Seller - Samuel Smiles and the Writing of Self Help".