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Tin has been mined and smelted on Dartmoor since the 11th Century. It is found as a 3% black rock with granite and other rocks that means a high percentage of waste. Pewter, made of 94% tin, 1% copper and 4% antimony, was used, in those early days, for plates to eat off and drinking containers. They forged Bronze primarily of copper plus 12% tin, for weapons and tools.

Tin ore was first found in streams and on the surface before it was mined. It was crushed, washed and smelted into moulds before being transported, by pack horses, to one of four Devon Stannary Towns for sale. Stannary Parliaments and courts were able to legislate and prosecute matters relating to tin.

Water, channelled into leats from streams or reservoirs, powered the water wheels, of various sizes, as crushers and pumps to drain the water from the mines and to supply fresh air.

Miners wore hats hardened with vinegar and they had to buy the candles they worked by. They hammered chisels into the rock and blow it out with gun powder. It was very dangerous work in dusty, wet, cold conditions and the miners were exhausted by the age of 35. Boys started work underground at ages of 8-9 and girls started work usually, on the surface, a little older. Men walked, up to 5 miles, to and from work and over that distance they stayed in local accommodation.

Gun powder was made on the moor, with men wearing slippers, to prevent explosions.

Local famers grew food and bred rabbits in constructed warrens.

We very much enjoyed Paul’s talk illustrated with photographic slides. He gives many other talks on life on Dartmoor.

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Ken Dixon, when visiting the cathedral in Florence, discovered this story of a conspiracy and murder on 26 April 1478 by a chance remark.

At that time Florence was an Italian republic and the Medici family were the unofficial head and owners of the largest bank in Europe.

The rival banking families, Pazzi and Salviati, conspired to displace the Medici family by murdering Lorenzo de Medici and his brother Giuliance de Medici at the Easter service in the Duomo of Florence amongst 10,000 people. Giuliance died from 19 stab wounds and Lorenzo survived his single wound.

Ken described the details of the plot, the involvement of the Pope, the brutal murders and the revenge that followed.

The conspiracy failed as the Medici family gained in popularity and the conspirators were banished from Florence.

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Chris previously spoke to the ACE group about his own skydiving and Base-jumping adventures.

This was a follow-up talk about the trauma he experienced after his wife Ruth had a skydiving accident on their holiday in Spain.

On the day of her accident, Ruth was an experienced skydiver and they were jumping together, with Chris leading.

When he landed and looked up he expected to see Ruth landing, but instead, he saw a crowd of people gathering around someone, on the ground, a short distance away. He rushed over and saw it was Ruth. She was unconscious and not breathing, but she had a pulse. Chris, with help, organised for her to be supported as she was rolled from her side onto her back, where he could start helping her to breath.

An ambulance arrived, but the Spanish paramedics could not speak any English and no one was able to translate for him. They gave him her wedding ring in a surgical glove. What did that mean? She was in serious danger.

Ruth was airlifted to a hospital, one and a half hours drive away, where she gained consciousness and started breathing for herself.

Chris followed and spoke to Ruth, but she had lost all her memory and she kept repeating the same question over and over.

He couldn’t stay with her like that and the doctors couldn’t explain her condition to him, so he had to return to his hotel room alone, frightened, depressed and unclear above Ruth’s future.
All he could do was pray.

He described this trauma with great skill and emotion. Ruth was flown home and he returned their hire car and flew home himself.
Ruth has now recovered, after a long period of rehabilitation, and returned to work. She continued skydiving for a short time, but she decided to give it up as it was clearly making Chris very anxious.

Chris is an excellent speaker. He spoke without notes and full of feeling and companion that brought tears to our eyes.

Tagged in: Skydiving accidents
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Pauline started her career at Paignton Zoo (PZ) selling tickets for teddy bears in the summer season of 1978.

In 1983, the Zoo employed their first marketing manager and Pauline became key to its promotion and development. She liaised with hotels, holiday camps, and annual shows and she set up a discount ticket scheme. She organised Easter Egg Hunts from 1991 and Christmas events from 1995 until her retirement in 2002.

In 1997, the first Zoo Keeper’s documentary was filmed and she assisted the film crew. These documentaries were very popular when screened in 1998 and 1999.

In 1999, the Heads of Departments all went to the USA for a week and the director, Peter Stevens, and Pauline took it in turns to run the Zoo. “Me in charge of a Zoo!

”Pauline said, “I had a wonderful time. I learned a lot and I met many wonderful people including most of the producers of the documentaries of animal programmes like David Attenborough and Chris Packham”.

The attached photographs are The Paignton Zoo’s first carnival float, The Zoo keepers’ TV series and Devika, a hand reared, Asiatic lion cub.

Pauline spent a long time preparing to perfect her talk. She included a lot of information, many fascinating pictures and lots of humour. We enjoyed listening and watching and so did Pauline as she conquered her nerves.

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Sky Divers jump from a high-altitude aeroplane, where they first free fall before ejecting their parachute. There appears to be ample time to complete each manoeuvre and it looks very enjoyable and safe.

BASE jumping, however, is performed from relatively low points like cliff tops or antennae towers. Time is short and it too looks exciting but there is no time for any error, as the records show.

Chris emphasised that the parachutes must be packed precisely so they eject correctly. Each side of the BASE parachute must be packed identically so the parachute ejects without any sideways deviation, which could cause the diver to veer into the cliff wall or to land badly.

Chris spoke of jumping from the edge of a Norwegian Fjord at 3050 feet and the cliff top at Beachy Head at 270 feet. The jumps lasted between 10 and 2½ seconds.

His talk was outstanding with gripping precision and pictures. He realises both sports are dangerous, but they have a unique exhilaration.

I have attached photographs of Chris talking to us, Chris with his parachute and 2 internet examples of BASE jumping from an antennae tower and a ravine in Idaho. 


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The Royal Botanical Gardens were built during the Depression of the 1920s, when rough ground was shaped and planted beside Lake Ontario.

The gardens provide large areas of natural beauty for recrea&on, school par&es and weddings amongst the roses and rock gardens, a large arboretum with rare trees, wild areas with White Tail Deer and brightly coloured skinks and extensive lakes that is home to numerous )sh, birds and canoeists.

Roger’s extensive photographic record took us all on a very beau&ful Canadian journey.

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John Risdon took us on an illustrated tour of Totnes, which is a former Saxon settlement, built 9 miles up the river Dart from its mouth at Dartmouth, where it is the first place the river can be crossed on foot and cart. The first bridge was built by the Norman invaders in the 12th century.

The Normans built a moat and bailey Keep in 1068 to keep the locals in order.

It had a Benedictine Priory from 1088 where it linked with Monks’ Bridge in Brixham.

It was fascinating to be taken around Totnes to see the buildings being added through the Tudor, Victorian and modern times. It had a Corn Exchange and vegetable, fish and poultry markets. In 1523, it was the 2nd richest town in Devon andthe 16th in England.

It was an important site learning at various Grammar Schools.

Today Totnes is the home of the South Hams District Council and the conservative Member of Parliament, Dr Sarah Wollaston.

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Bob and Donna Myres met in 1996, when volunteering at the Torbay Hospital Radio charity, where they still broadcast to patients on a Monday evening.

In 2012 they formed the Torbay Times as a community newspaper to improve the publicity for voluntary organisations in Torbay.

Waitrose was the first large store in Torbay to sell their paper and others followed. They now have a steady circulation in the Bay and a large advertisement on a local bus.

They reached their 50th addition this month with regular columnists like our ACE member – Uncle Tom.

Dr Wollaston, the Totnes Member of Parliament, invited them to visit the Houses of Parliament and a reception, at Number Ten, for journalists. They soon discovered that their newspaper was the only one present without a bias.

They feature controversial issues, without a biased view, such as the possibility of closing local hospitals or the future of Oldway Massion.

Much of their newspaper is involved with Charity events with in Torbay

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Yvonne, Janet and Sophia provided us with a most interesting, well-illustrated talk onthe Island of Madeira.

Sophia had created an expert power point presentation, which was very helpful for Yvonne’s talk.

We learnt how the island was born of an ancient volcano and that it was claimed for Portugal.

It is visited by approximately one million tourists annually and many cruise ships call.

Madeira is a lush, mountainous island popular for the numerous man made water channels called levadas, which provide lengthy walks amongst the mountains. Janet and her husband, Bruce, have visited Madeira seven times and she showed us photographs of them following the levadas amongst the mountain tops and low level clouds and views over the sea.

Yvonne showed us pictures of the world-famous New Year fireworks display, the Brazilian style carnival, the exotic flower shows, the dancing from all ages, the market of mouth-watering fruit, vegetables, fish and meat.

Yvonne had baked local delicacies which we sampled with small glasses of local wine and rum.

Their talk brightened up our grey day of frequent showers.

We would now all like to visit for ourselves.

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Tina is a past friend of ACE. She started with an illustrated talk on her visit to India, which she gave dressed in a traditional Sari. Then she taught cookery on a Tuesday evening.

Now we welcome her back to share her craft knowledge. After her demonstration, wemade a Christmas Tree from an old book and decorated it.

The tree tested our dexterity, hand, eye co-ordination and skill with glue and tinsel.

It was very enjoyable and we took home our own Christmas decoration

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Carl, an ACE member and our Guest Speaker organiser, provided us with an excellent talk on the ‘Sovereign’s Christmas Message’.The message was

The message was first broadcast by King George V in 1932 as part of the BBC Empire Service and is continued today by our present Queen Elizabeth II. She now broadcasts on the BBC World Service to the Commonwealth of Nations on television and the internet.

It was interesting to hear some of the topics that have been mentioned in the messages over the years. They can all be found in the Wikipedia section of the internet title.

Carl’s topic was followed by Yvonne our administrator, who told us about her trip in 2012 to Lapland in Finland.

At the time her son Carlo was a Thompson’s Holiday Rep. at the Santa Claus Villagein the Finnish capital of Rovaniemi.

We say beautiful sub-Arctic winter scenes of Santa Claus and his elves in his work shop, thick, dry snow cover fields and forests, the green Northern Lights-Aurora Borealis, reindeers and dogs pulling sleighs and the colourful costumes of the indigenous Sami people.

We finished by naming Santa’s reindeers and singing Jingle Bells.

I’d like to commend Carl and Yvonne for the pleasure of their talks, despite their nerves, and we would encourage others to follow their lead.

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Janet is a volunteer and trustee of ACE and she and Bruce celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary with a holiday to Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is a Central, Latin America country, with a population of 4.5 million, situated between Nicaragua and Panama. The capital is San Jose, the main language is Spanish and the main currencies are the Colon and the American Dollar.

It has a tropical climate being 8 degrees north of the equator. 25% of the country is protected national parks and recreational hunting is banned. Ecotourism is now worth more than coffee and banana production. By 2021 they plan to be carbon neutral.

Janet illustrated her talk numerous pictures of jungle views, some of the 14 volcanoes, curious ecolodges and wildlife species of every type imaginable.

The attached examples are a  toucan, a spider monkey and a hummingbird




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Robbie is a former Captain in the British Army Education Corp and a War Historian.

The Battery was first established, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in 1586, in anticipation of a possible landing site by the Spanish Armada of 1588.

It was then prepared for use during the following: 

The American War of Independence when France was an ally of the American Colonists

The Napoleonic wars when Napoleon threatened to invade

The Crimean War when the Russian Fleet was expected to travel to the Mediterranean and the Black Sea

Coast Guard training between 1870 – 1890

World War II after the evacuation from Dunkirk

On the 1st June 1940, when a German invasion was considered very likely, Winston Churchill ordered 116 batteries to be built, on the coast, from Scotland to Milford Haven.

The Brixham battery was ready and manned, on 21September 1940, by 362 Battery Royal Artillery until the success of the Battle of Britain, when Hitler cancelled operation ‘Sea Lion’, the German code name for the invasion of Britain and ordered the invasion of Russia.

378 Battery Home Guard then took charge under the command of Captain Hock. He was a German Jew who fled, with his family to Britain in 1935, to escape the persecution of the Nazis. On the declaration of war, the Hock family were interned and interrogated. The authorities discovered that Mr Hock had been a German Artillery Officer during WWI and his knowledge, skills and loathing of the Nazis could be well used to defend Britain.

The battery was equipped with a 4.7’’ gun, which had been built on licence during the WWI for the Japanese navy and then bought back in 1922, plus 2 search lights, a Swedish made Bofus anti-aircraft gun and rocket launchers. The 4.7” gun was only ever fired in practice as no surface vessels ever entered Torbay, but the searchlights and the Bofus gun were frequently used against 50 hit and run raids by German aeroplanes. These raids caused bomb damage to Brixham and vessels in the harbour, The Palace Hotel in Torquay, which was being used as an RAF hospital, killing 20 patients and 4 nurses and a church at St Marychurch one Sunday afternoon killing 20 children and 2 teachers. The batteries at Brixham and Corbyn Headshot down 2 Me 109’s and 3 Fokker Wulf 190’s. A creditable performance against such fast aircraft.

Brixham battery is a scheduled heritage site and it houses a museum in the former plotting room during the Artillery Regiment and a training room for the Home Guard.

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Liz Long, from Paignton, spoke to us on how she and others founded and continue to support Lisa’s school in Northern Kenya. The development of the school can be found on their website with numerous pictures.

Liz first showed us excellent pictures of elephants, lions, leopards and other wildlife in Samburu National Park in Northern Kenya, before moving on to the local town of Archer’s Post. It is situated in a very arid, dusty area where goat herding is a prime source of income.

Liz learnt that Government supported education starts at 6 years of age and there was a need for earlier schooling between 3 and 6 years.

She started fund raising with friends for such a school and they channelled the funds through Brian Freeman who runs a local Game Reserve.

The pictures of the school with the happy young children in their uniforms and their parents in their bright robes and beads is a real beacon of hope in a desperately poor community.

Liz and friends have funded the building of the school and toilets and now fund the staff wages, the books and pencils, uniforms, food to nourish the pupils and a computer plus health care, that’s included two operations of a hernia and a brain tumour. Liz confessed to many sleepless nights worrying about what they had started and letting down the hopes of the children and their parents.

We made a small contribution to this inspiring project and I’m sure you too will be moved by following the above website link. 

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The Torbay Poetry Festival opened with Sue and John Miles reading a selection of their poems to ACE members.

We were first taken back to the hippy era of Bob Dillon, with calls for peace and flowers in their hair.

The changing days of Autumn, flowers growing on waste land, the beauty of drifting clouds and Grandad’s garden.

Writing a poet entitled Barge. At first it seemed daunting until John realised how many words in French contained this ending.

The dreaded hospital visitor, who spreads dome and gloom instead of light relief and joy as one battles the route to recovery.

The frustrated hurry of trying to find the end of the large, modern toilet roll, whist conscious of the queue building outside the Ladies.

Reminisces from childhood and the embarrassment of having to read aloud female parts in an all boy’s school.

War time memories of being an engineer in a Motor Torpedo Boat; below the water line, with no view of where they were going and seconds to get out if hit.

The meaning of Brexit.

Kisses, Morris Minors, dog owners cleaning their side of the street, domestic chores and men trying to change the duvet cover.

We had a very entertaining morning with Grahame, from the Write Way class, making significant contributions. We do enjoy these annual visits from such varied and entertaining poets, who provide us with Festival poetry that we would, otherwise, not be able to access.


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Torbay is sheltered from the prevailing South Westerly winds, but open to easterly winds. It was therefore, generally, a safe-haven for the Western Squadron.

Napoleon Bonaparte was a brilliant general with many successful victories, across Europe, to his name.

Britain, however, had a small army in contrast, but a large very successful Royal Navy commanded by Admiral Nelson.

The British navy blockaded the French ports to starve France of trade and to preventthe French navy from building its fleet and developing its skills.

The British navy used Torbay and primarily the small fishing village of Brixham, as a victualing station for water, beef and vegetables. 20-25 ships were often anchored in the bay, with a combined crew of 25,000, but they were not allowed ashore. The officers however, brought their families, to live in Torquay. Torbay benefitted greatly during the Napoleonic wars. Whilst European countries were continually at war and unsafe to visit, Britain’s wealthy classes found Torquay especially, very suitable, and they built their palatial houses, on the cool hillsides, to enjoy their lengthy stays.

Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo on 18 June 1815 and he tried to flee to America, but all the ports were blocked. On the 15 July1815 he surrendered toCaptain Maitland on HMS Bellerophon, known as Billy Ruffian, off La Rochelle.

He arrived in Torbay, in secrecy, on 24 July 1815 intending to ask for asylum. He behaved as the perfect gentleman and was very amical to all he met.

He exclaimed, on arrival,” What a beautiful country”.

Letters were quickly sent to the Admiralty.

The secret was soon broken, when a bottle, containing a message, was thrown from the ship and picked up by schoolboy John Smart. The local boats, gave up fishing, and conveyed sight seers close to the ship, where Napoleon bowed and removed his hat.

People were showing signs of feeling sorry for him and the Admiralty were afraid he would meet and charm the King and achieve his desire - an English gentleman.‘The Tyrant of Europe’ was moved to Plymouth from 26 July until 4 August, where hewas transferred to HMS Northumberland for exile to Saint Helena, a small isolated island, in the Atlantic Ocean off Africa. He arrived on 15 October and later died in 1821.

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Paul started by showing us a number of different acoustic and electric guitars.

He explained the different parts of each guitar and demonstrated how they sound, because of their different wooden construction, the number of strings, either gut or steel, the effect of a capo, amplification and how the strings were played using finger picking or strumming with a hard or soft plectrum.

He played various well known numbers like: ‘In the early morning rain’, ‘Scarborough Fair’, ‘You’ve got a friend’, ‘Good night Irene’, ‘California dreaming’ and Starry, Starry night’.
We sang along with many of them and we thoroughly enjoyed the morning going down memory lane.

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She was one of four who in 2005/2006 formed The Devon Players to produce local historic plays.

They produced ‘A Tale of John Prince’, which is a saucy tale about a ‘Gentleman of the Road’.

The Trial of Anne Bonny and Mary Reed, who were lady pirates based on the Barbary Pirates who captured English people for slavery in the east. It was shown at Brixham’s Pirate Festival.

The Great Gale of January 1866 when a south east gale wrecked many of Brixham’s fishing fleet and cost many lives. The fishermen’s wives made a fire beacon, of broken furniture, on the breakwater to guide their men folk home.

Medieval Christmas, staged at Exeter Cathedral, when King Edward I was murdered.

The Ballard of Resurrection of Bob Elliot the smuggler.

Les Miserable ‘The Memoirs of Jean Valjean’.

Romeo and Juliet staged in 19th Century Brixham between Cow town and Fish town.

Survivors of the Titanic who faced the Board of Trade in Plymouth.

The Players wish to build local acting skills based on, well researched, challenging projects for theatre and film.

We enjoyed listing to Laura and her impressive list of productions. We wished her luck for the future.

More details can be found on

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Deserts do not all consist of the romantic image of sand and sand dunes. Many are made of gravel, mountains, dried river valleys, salt pans and sometimes oases.

Deserts are usually very hot places with temperatures between 35 to 70 They receive less than 10” of annual rainfall, which includes parts of East Anglia in England and Spain.

bobcat20copyWhen it does rain the desert blooms like the Californian Poppy. Plants survive like the Yucca by putting down deep roots and slow growth. Most have thick skin with sharp thorns that covers a succulent centre within.

In the Sonoran Desert in western USA a moth lays its eggs on the cactus and the larva bore their way in. This leads to bacterial infections and rot that can eventually lead to access for woodpeckers and nesting birds like the Elf Owl.

Roger showed us pictures and spoke about the Cactus Wren, humming birds, the Road Runner, toads, spiders, scorpions, lizards, Diamond Backed Rattle Snakes, jack rabbits, jackals, big horned sheep and Pumas. A wonderful natural population that are at home in these challenging places.

He explained the danger of introducing non-native species like the South African Gemsbok that has no natural predators in the Sonoran Desert and populations have exploded.
We saw the dwellings of ancient native people whose houses were built into cool caves.

Roger’s talk provided us with an excellent visit to these hot, arid, forbidding places, which we enjoyed very much.

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Bill first told us a little about himself. He was born in Pontefract, Yorkshire and he preferred sport to academic studies. His first job was in the Personnel Department of the National Coal Board and then he moved to Sheffield to deal with the redundancies in the Coal, Shipbuilding and Steel industries.

Sadly, after having a serious, head on collision car accident, which involved months in hospital recovering and learning to walk again, he was pensioned off. He returned to college and education.
In 1994 he was awarded the MBE by our Queen for services to Steel.

He has worked as a volunteer for the RNLI and Brixham Does Care. In 2002 he joined PROBUS. It is an organisation for Professional and Business men and women, which started, as a luncheon club, in 1971 in London and has grown worldwide.

It does not have a central governing body and each group is free to make its own rules.

Brixham’s PROBUS started in 1967 and the members have chosen to have a separate group for men and for women. They are open to all regardless of their occupation.

The men meet on Thursday morning in the Catholic Church Hall, where we have our own sound equipment. Their 54 regular members pay £2 per visit and they can pay into a raffle. This covers expenses and three annual social dinners.

Each week we have a visiting speaker, who is free to speak on any subject except politics and religion. There is no dinner provided, but many members meet at venues nearby for a drink and a meal.

We care for the welfare of members by contacting those who are not well and we provide those who need support. Our wives enjoy their own space on a Thursday.

The women’s PROBUS meets every other Tuesday at the same venue.

We enjoyed listening to Bill and we thanked him for all his service to the community.

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