Probus Club 42nd AGM

Alex Marianos (L) being invested as president by David Wickens (R)

Although the foundation of Probus Clubs was in Caterham, Surrey in 1965, for retired professional and business managers, hence the name Probus, it wasn’t until 1979 that Basingstoke saw its Probus Club formed which has continued uninterrupted ever since. The club has just convened its 42nd Annual General Meeting at the Test Valley Golf club, the venue of their regular business meetings and lunches.

Outgoing president David Wickens reviewed his year of office which has included presiding over talks by guest speakers, and visits by the Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC, Cllr Onnalee Cubit and the president of the Ladies’ Probus Club, Revd Jane Leese. Throughout the past year, once things returned to normal last September, there have been social activities that included wives/partners either at special lunches or visits to interesting destinations.

Social meetings, which include the ladies, are also held monthly for lunch at a hostelry in the area.

Alex Marianos was invested with the chain of office as the new president. He is a retired civil engineer who was responsible for bridge building on the M4.

The newly installed mayor of Basingstoke & Deane BC, Cllr Paul Miller, is also a member of the Probus Club and, uniquely, will be the guest of honour at the July meeting.

Today there are more than 4,000 Probus Clubs throughout the mainly English speaking world with 180,000 members in the UK. Entry is open to any man with some supervisory experience.

Probus Publicity in June 2022

The visit members made to Winchester to see the Cathedral and Arundells, the home of ex–prime minister Sir Edward Heath has been picked up by our local magazines and in some cases gave us a full page which meant that it was considered best to show in the correct size which explains why the Rabbiter and the Bramley magazine have their cover and a separate image of the inside page.

Others, the Basinga and the Link used our report within their web sites.

The CommunityAd magazine for Overton, Oakley and Kempshott also gave a double page spread in their A5 size smaller publication.

Probus Club member appointed Mayor

Image courtesy of Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council

Probus Club of Basingstoke member, Paul Miller, a member of the Executive Committee, has been appointed the new Mayor of Basingstoke & Deane following the Mayor Making ceremony at the Civic offices on Thursday 12 May.

Cllr Miller, who has served as a councillor in the Chineham ward since 2009, will represent the borough at events during the landmark Queen’s Platinum Jubilee year supported by the Mayoress, his wife Sandra.

Describing his appointment as “an honour”, Cllr Miller said at the meeting: “I am privileged to have been elected the 71st Mayor of Basingstoke and Deane during the reign of Her Majesty The Queen in her Platinum Jubilee year and as the 44th Mayor since the establishment of our borough. As first citizen I am here to dedicate my term in office to the residents of this borough.”

Cllr Miller is a retired Royal Air Force officer, who served in the armed forces for 25 years, followed by 10 years as an international staff member of NATO in Brussels. He continued as a contractor in the defence aerospace industry before retiring in 2014.

Probus Publicity May 2022

The report on the talk by our Hon Secretary, Stephen Thair, about Creatures Great and Small was received well by the local magazines.

The full report was featured by the Rabbiter and Kempshott Kourier while the short version was published in the Bramley, Basinga and on the web site of the Link. The CommunityAd magazine for Bramley & Sherfield features the older report about the atom bomb and a piece of string.

While not unusual in failing to feature in the Loddon Valley Link magazine, for once, and for an unknown reason, our report did not feature in the Villager magazine.

Probus Spring Ladies’ Lunch 10th May 2022

Despite all the concerning, recent changes at the Test Valley Golf Club the Spring Ladies’ Lunch was a complete success. The new chef produced excellent food on the day, and it appears that all 32 attendees are carnivores since no one selected the main course option of roasted vegetables.

The members on the table with your correspondent had every option available and all were very complimentary about the quality of the food.

Revd Jane Leese, president of the Ladies’ Probus Club of Basingstoke, was the guest of honour and gave an outline of her move from being a teacher into church ministry only two years after the ordination of women priests was allowed.

Guest of Honour Revd Jane Leese, President of the Basingstoke Ladies’ Probus Club with President David Wickens

Unfortunately it did not prove possible to take a photograph of Michael & Pam Luck or that of Dave Kitson with Hilary Shopland. Apologies are offered to all concerned.

Probus Enjoys a Twin Visit to Salisbury

The benefits of having an arranged trip to Salisbury Cathedral manifests themselves with small nuggets of information that evade the casual visitor. Such things came to the fore when members and wives/partners of the Probus Club of Basingstoke visited Salisbury Cathedral and to Arundells, situated in Cathedral Close, the home of the ex-prime minister Sir Edward Heath who is buried in the cathedral.

A guided tour of the cathedral was only able to gloss over the surface, but it was enthralling learning about the foundation of what has become known as the cathedral that moved. The original cathedral shared space with the local garrison but relations soured so much that the Pope gave permission to build a new place of worship. An arrow was fired and where it landed would be the site, but it hit a deer that eventually died where the cathedral now stands.

The foundation stone was laid in 1220 but the eight hundredth anniversary could not be celebrated as the building was a vaccination centre during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The dimensions and logistics are extraordinary. It took only 38 years to build and used 60,000 tons of stone, 2,800 tons of oak and 420 tons of lead and all this sits on foundations of only four feet.

The Nave. The dark columns are polished stone

Several rivers pass beneath the building and the presence of water maintains the firmness of the ground. The water level is regularly checked with a dip stick.

Demonstrating the water level dip stick

This constant supply of water is used in the modern font which is over ten feet across and has overflowing spouts at four corners clearly demonstrating the style of infinity pools. In opposition to this is the world’s oldest working mechanical clock which has no dials but rings the hours. For a church of such size the cathedral does not possess a change ring of bells typically seen in our churches.

The 14th century choir (or quire) that today has a membership of girls with the traditional boys

Salisbury Cathedral houses what is claimed to be the finest of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta, signed by King John in 1215. This is on permanent display in the Chapter House. Photography not permitted.

A short stroll diagonally across Cathedral Close sits Arundells, now known as the Prime Minister’s home. It was home for the last twenty years of ex-prime minister Sir Edward Heath and was bequeathed to a charitable foundation set up in Sir Edward’s name following his death in 2005.

Arundells the home of Sir Edward Heath

Parts of the house go back to the 13th century and six architectural periods are visible and it is set in a two-acre walled garden that stretches down to the confluence of the rivers Avon and Nadder, with amazing views back towards the spire of Salisbury Cathedral.

Inside the house has been largely left as it was when Sir Edward lived here with gifts displayed from world leaders such as Richard Nixon, Chairman Moa and Fidel Castro and many photographs depicting a life spent in politics.

Display case showing models of the five versions of Morning Cloud yachts

Only taking up sailing at the age of 50 Sir Edward became a successful sportsman. There is a collection of models of Morning Cloud yachts, which is the name most people remember when Sir Edward was the owner and skipper of the winning British crew of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. Because the sail number 2468 was allowed to be transferred, Sir Edward named four subsequent boats to also be called Morning Cloud.

As well as paintings of his boats the house is decorated throughout with original paintings, some by famous artists including two by Sir Winston Churchill, L S Lowry and Augustus John. There are  beautiful collections of ceramics, glassware and sculptures and treasures from the Far East – including hand painted Chinese wallpaper, and a stunning collection of Japanese woodblock prints.

Life size bronze bust of Sir Edward Heath

Many bronze sculptures can be seen in an adjoining building with life size busts of Sir Edward Heath and HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother. Some depicting other famous people are available to buy but need a fat wallet.

The house is open from the middle of March to 1st November this year, with guided tours on Tuesdays which provide the visitor with a greater sense, not only about its last inhabitant, but also the great history of this house so connected to Salisbury Cathedral.

Garden of Arundells with its view of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral


Probus Hears About Creatures Great & Small

President David Wickens with Speaker Stephen Thair

Most of the senior readers will remember times during the 1950s when the only “foreign” animals school children would see were either those lucky enough to visit a zoo or see Tarzan films at the cinema or on small black and white televisions in programmes such as David Attenborough’s Zoo Quest and those of intrepid explorers Armand and Michaela Dennis and under water film makers Hans and Lotte Hass.

Hans & Lotte Hass

Today, it is a different situation with both the increase in foreign travel that allow face to face experiences with exotic creatures and locations but also for the considerable amount of television programmes that these days highlight concerns about global warming with its danger to animals, plants and humankind.

The speaker, Stephen Thair, himself a member of the Probus Club of Basingstoke, sought to bring his concerns about the way our planet is heading at the latest meeting of this club for retired professional and business managers.

The RSPB’s recent Big Garden Birdwatch had over 700,000 participants and spotted 11 million birds. This may sound a lot, and there have been some increases in certain species, but the organisation calculates that in the last 50 years, from 1972, this country has lost over 38 million birds. Having said that, and because they are more house types of birds, you will probably see more species in your back garden than on a walk in the Hampshire countryside.

The speaker cited many reasons for changes in the world’s ecology. Global warming has meant that in the UK plants are flowering a month earlier than they used to. Animals operate by day length which means that orchids now flower before bees have emerged to pollinate them. Increased rainfall brings planned housing developments into question with either dangers of building on traditional flood plains or as is happening close by in the Arun valley existing water extraction may be having an impact on the environment and any new developments need to be neutral in the consumption of water.

Spain has severe water shortages and strawberry growers in Andalucía have been illegally tapping water for some time. This has now been regularised by the regional government due to a combination of political and commercial pressures.

Whale Bone Arch in Greenland – one exists in Whitby in recognition of their whaling fleet

Over the years there has been progress on several fronts. Whaling was a substantial industry, including in Britain where a large fleet was based in Whitby, but these days the International Whaling Commission set catch limits to preserve stocks. In 2020 only Japan and Norway were whaling commercially although four countries conducted aboriginal subsistence hunts. Today whale watching has become a tourist activity..

Reductions in many fishing fleets throughout the world have been necessary as several varieties have been fished out and Cod stocks in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland are still only at 10% of the level seen in 1960. Herrings, around Britain, are now said to be in good numbers following a ban from 1977 – 1983.

Tins of Tuna now claim that the contents have for some years been caught by lines rather than by nets but even this method attracts criticism from the RSPB as Albatrosses are sometimes themselves caught on these long lines.

A success story has been the Tequila fish that was extinct in the wild in Mexico. It has been reintroduced to its native area after being bred in an aquarium at Chester Zoo. Rewilding at the Knepp Estate in West Sussex has seen the return of Nightingales, Turtle Doves and breeding White Storks. And last year at another English site 72 pairs of Common Crane fledged 40 chicks with the result that today there are more in this country than in the 17th Century.


Tropical rainforests, known as the lungs of the world, are subject to extensive logging activity. Extensive deforestation of biodiverse forests takes place in parts of the world to grow palm trees for their oil, destroying the habitats of already endangered species like the Orangutan, pygmy elephant and Sumatran rhino. Civilisation is relentlessly advancing towards them so that today 70% of rain forests have a road within one mile.

The UN COP-15 conference about biodiversity was held remotely in October 2021 due to Covid. The follow-on COP-15 part 2 due at the end of August at Kunming in China to review progress and finalise the post 2020 biodiversity framework has been postponed due to Covid. The key aim is to make 30% of the Earth’s land and seas to be protected areas by 2030. Alarmingly none of the twenty goals set by governments at a similar conference in 2010, to be achieved by 2020, have been fully met.

The pressure is on us all to do something to bring these targets back on track. Time is running out.

Probus Publicity in April 2022

A good month for our publicity in the April local magazines. Except for the Link (Oakley) not featuring our report, the remainder carried the report on the talk given by our new member, Michael Luck, about credit cards. Clearly a timely piece in view of the latest security activities by the banks to ensure that only the named card holder has access to their funds.

The CommunityAd publishers used a report for their Old Basing & Lychpit Community Newsletter, previously used in their magazine for Bramley & Sherfield, which is why the Eurovision Song Contest report is shown.

Probus Learn To Play Their Cards Right

President David Wickens with Michael Luck

The phrase, generally attributed to, but denied by the actor Sir Michael Caine “Not a lot of people know that!” could be applied to some of the information that came from the talk at the latest meeting of the Probus Club of Basingstoke.

The talk, titled Play Your Cards Right by Bramley resident Michael Luck, an expert in card payments systems, was about the history of credit cards and how their security has changed over the years with advancing technology. One fact that instantly connects to the phrase above was that a pin number, used to confirm the user, is not seen by the bank when making a payment but stays within the chip on your card.

The first on the scene was the Diners Card in 1950 followed by the American Express card in 1958, both of which were printed on cardboard. This goes some way to explain why today being made of plastic they are still called cards. Amex changed to a plastic card with embossed lettering in 1959. These two early ones were in fact charge cards in that the full amount had to be paid off each month.

Diners Club Card 1950

Barclaycard arrived in the late 1960s with a credit card as we know them today. Zip-Zap imprinters used three-part payment slips which the user had to sign.

The magnetic strip, as still seen today, was introduced in 1970 and contained the name, card number, expiry date and some other data. Point of Sale electronic terminals in 1980 used to swipe the magnetic strip which was considered secure as there were no computer viruses and hackers in those days. The latest chips contain even more information which means that in all probability the magnetic strip will eventually vanish.

It was the French, in 1975, who developed the use of a chip placed on the reverse of the card while it took until the early 2000s for the Safeway supermarket chain being the first in the UK to use this technology.

First French Card With Chip

Contactless cards were introduced into the UK in 2008 and had very slow acceptance as people were concerned that if their wallet was close to a terminal that a payment just might be actioned. Young people, as with many technological advances, saw the ease of use and this was especially so when in May 2011, the restaurant chain McDonald’s introduced this no signature required system. With most of their sales transactions below £20 this was seen as a great benefit by the company and today they have one of the most sophisticated card payment programmes in the World.

The Covid pandemic saw the rest of the UK rapidly come to accept this system especially when the maximum limit was raised to £100. However, this also brought about increased fraudulent activity if a card was stolen as no signature was needed.

What next, you wonder? The future has arrived and as from March this year, as banks and retailers boost their security systems, customers will be sent a code by their bank to enter online or at a terminal in a retail establishment as proof that they are who the card says is the account holder. This is called Strong Customer Authentication (SCA). This will not happen on every occasion, perhaps one in four, especially for small value transactions, but if a retailer is not ready for the new process there could be times when a card is declined.

Some retailers are already using this system when large values are involved or when a customer uses a web site for the first time. There is a problem that a user might be confused as not all banks use the same criteria. PayPal is included and Apple Pay on mobile phones already use a code, fingerprint or facial recognition to approve the payment.

If there weren’t so many dishonest people in the world these changes to the security systems would be unnecessary but the banks are doing their best to ensure that only you access your money.

Funeral Service for Past President Dennis Freeman

President of the Probus Club of Basingstoke 1988/89

The funeral service for Dennis Freeman was held on Tuesday 8th March 2022 at All Saints’ Church, Fairfields, Basingstoke followed by interment at Worting Road Cemetery.

Dennis had been President of the Probus Club of Basingstoke 1988/89 and must have been one of the youngest holders of that position probably helped by retiring at the age of only fifty-five in 1980.

He had left school at 14 and studied to become a draughtsman. He wanted to become a pilot during WW2 but was rejected because he was colour blind. Instead, he trained people in aircraft recognition at Biggin Hill.

Dennis joined Lansing Bagnall as a draughtsman and designer, becoming a senior consultant with LB Technical Services, which was then spun off as Modern Materials Management in which Dennis served as a director.

With his wife, Dorothy, who predeceased him in 2013, they enjoyed a long retirement engaging in various activities including travelling to Australia where one of their daughters lives and who came to the funeral. The service was well attended by his family and friends and by some of the regular congregation of All Saints’ Church where Dennis was a member.

He had been a regular attendee at the Probus evening meetings at the church in Chineham and then for a while at our combined meetings at the Test Valley Golf Club. During the last couple of years when his health deteriorated, he enjoyed attending the Memory Club in Basingstoke.

Our club was represented by Honorary Secretary, Stephen Thair and Ron Baxter MBE, who had been President 2005/06.