This page will have all of the written reports that have been generated on topic discussions and topics of interest.

Posted by TPC-ADMIN on January 8, 2017


Smuggling is part of Devon’s romantic and intriguing history. In this month’s talk, Robert Hesketh described the bravery and recklessness of the smugglers – often ordinary people trying to escape a life of poverty.

Britain was at war with France. To pay for that war, excise duty was raised on all manner of goods and none more so than alcohol and tobacco. Avoiding this duty was very profitable indeed. Fishermen risked their lives on the high seas and landlubbers risked capital punishment for dealing in smuggled goods. On a dark night, fishing smacks would become smugglers’ vessels and would easily outrun the naval patrols with their speed and the fishermen’s intimate knowledge of the coast. The Devon beach of Beer Head was a typical good landing place and the Beer Quarry Caves provided adequate storage for smuggled brandy barrels and casks of tobacco. Further inland, the church bell towers offered further safe storage. A man could earn more in one night of smuggling than he would in a month at his normal hard work.

Robert told many amusing smugglers’ tales. In one, the preventive men visited a certain Bob Elliot of Brixham only to be told that he had died that evening. The coastguards met the funeral procession, noting not only an exceptionally large and heavy coffin but also the “ghost” of Bob walking behind it. They fled in terror. Other stories told of housewives using their washing lines as signals and of revenue officers profiting from aiding the smugglers.

David Wixon proposed the vote of thanks congratulating Robert on his fantastic presentation. The subject of our next talk in February is “New Zealand North Island”. Tavistock Probus Club is always pleased to welcome new members. 

If you would like to join the Tavistock Probus Club, please have a word with our secretary on 01822 615669.

Posted by TPC-ADMIN on November 8, 2016



Blue police boxes, the sound of police whistles shrieking in the night, Dixon of Dock Green – memories of long gone policing practices were brought to life again in our November talk by Tony and Gillian Parker, both retired senior police officers. These were the days before mobile phones and brightly painted police cars; when the policeman* walked his beat and was part of the community. (*Gillian reminded everyone that recruitment of women to the police was a rare event and until 1973 women were not allowed to work after 10pm!)

Blue Police Boxes or the ‘tardis’

Further reminders of days of yore were that Bobbies on their beat used police boxes to check in every hour to let the sergeant know they were safe and that they not having a quiet drink in the local pub.

Short of running to the nearest “tardis” the only way of calling for backup in an emergency was to blow your police whistle and hope. Personal protection took the form of a helmet (for male officers) and a wooden truncheon now replaced by taser guns, bullet proof vests, and smartphones.

A career that began at the age of 16

Tony joined the police service as a police cadet at the young age of 16 during which he worked at a monastery and attended a post-mortem! With a varied career, in training, press and public relations, pharmacy inspections and narcotics investigation – including working in Chicago, Tony was seconded to and ended his career as Head of Performance Management for National Police Training.

Gillian and Tony Parker in their former policing careers.
Gillian and Tony Parker in their former policing careers.

Gillian joined Leicestershire Constabulary in 1980 and specialised in child protection, domestic violence, and youth offending. In 1991 she helped review police arrangements in Jamaica before moving to Suffolk and subsequently to Bedfordshire on promotion to Chief Constable. Gillian was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal in 2003.

Demonstrations of policing methodology

Members were shown how policing methodology has changed dramatically over the years with developments in forensic and behavioural science, DNA testing and offender profiling. Police communications have also benefited from advances in technology providing instant access to a variety of databases.

Lou Fletcher thanked Tony and Gillian for their most interesting and informative talk. In December, the Tavistock Probus Club members will enjoy an excellent Christmas lunch at Tavistock Golf Club.

Tavistock Probus Club is always pleased to welcome new members. If you would like to join us, please have a word with our secretary on 01822 615669.

Posted by TPC-ADMIN on September 8, 2016

The Falkland Islands and Antartica

Life in the Royal Navy is often very challenging, even in peacetime. Our talk this month was given by Rodney Browne who, after two tours to Antarctic waters in HMS Endurance, commanded his own survey ship, HMS Herald, for two winter tours to the Falkland Islands and Antarctica shortly after the Falklands war.

The Falkland Islands

The Falkland Islands are mountainous, extremely cold and windy and yet teaming with wildlife. Rodney’s photographs showed just how dramatic the landscape is, with pictures of icebergs, rugged cliffs, and snow-covered hills together with close-up photos of sea lions, penguins, hawks and, of course, sheep.

The Antarctic is 95% ice covered and temperatures as low as -88°C have been recorded. When surveying in winter, safety is paramount. The weather can change dramatically in a very short space of time and the environment is harsh and unpredictable. The wildlife, if a little unsociable, is perfectly adapted to this environment. Seals, however, have foul smelling breath and the pungent odour of a penguin rookery can be smelt 3 miles away.

Mountains, Ice, and perilous conditions

Our talk included stories of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s attempted expedition to the South Pole, sledding 1740 miles in perilous conditions, before years later being trapped in ice on board the Endurance and sailing to South Georgia before climbing a 9,000ft mountain ridge to seek the help of a whaling station.

Ray Hurle thanked Rodney for giving members a fascinating insight into the life of a naval officer and demonstrating how flexible and innovative one must be when commanding a vessel. The subject for our October meeting is “Help for Heroes”.

Tavistock Probus Club is pleased to welcome new members. If you would like to join us, please have a word with our secretary on 01822 615669.

Posted by TPC-ADMIN on August 8, 2016

The Ten Tors Challenge

Ten Tors
Torquay Girls Grammar School B Team, the first all-female team to finish the 2015 Ten Tors Challenge. Photo: Corporal Daniel Wiepen
approach the finish line to rapturous applause from friends, family and Ten Tors fans. The Torquay Girls Grammar School girls teams were the first two all female teams to finish the event in 2015.
The Ten Tors Challenge is one of the biggest outdoors adventure events for young people in Britain today.
2,400 youngsters aged between 14 and 19 will take part in Ten Tors, trekking unaided over 35, 45 or 55 miles of some of the toughest terrain and highest peaks in Southern England, relying on their navigational skills and carrying all their food, water, bedding, tents and other essentials as they go.
A further 300 youngsters with physical or educational needs take part in the Jubilee Challenge and complete routes of up to 15 miles.
Ten Tors is also a vital high-level military exercise – called Exercise ARIES TOR – designed to test interoperability between the Armed Forces and Devon and Cornwall Police, The British Red Cross and Dartmoor Search and Rescue Group.
MoD release authorised handout images.
All images remain Crown Copyright.
Photo credit to read – Corporal Daniel Wiepen
Daniel Wiepen – 07880 052437
Richard Watt – 07836 515306
Shane Wilkinson – 07901 590723

Over the past 55 years, the Ten Tors expedition has provided a uniquely demanding challenge to many thousands of young people. They are required to hike over Dartmoor for up to three days, without adult support and solely responsible for their own well-being. Their safety, however, remains the primary concern of the team organising the event together with the Dartmoor National Park Authority, the emergency services, and various volunteer groups.

Simon Bell discusses his love for Dartmoor

Our talk this month told the history of the Ten Tors expedition and was given by Simon Dell, who is currently the Director and Coordinator of Moorland Guides. Simon has, for many years, had a special interest in the Dartmoor Rescue Group and in 1997 was awarded the MBE for services to the community as well as mountain rescue.

The Ten Tors Challenge started life in 1959 as a military exercise by the Junior Leaders Regiment, based at Denbury Camp. The exercise was a great success with those taking part enjoying the challenges of navigation, bivouacking and field cooking. The officers in charge, among them Colonel Gregory, felt that such an expedition could greatly benefit the youth of the day and should not be confined to Junior Leaders.

The first Ten Tors Challenge

The first public Ten Tors expedition took place on 15th September 1960 starting at Haytor, with teams of 10 walking 55 miles over the moors to Hexworthy. Teams of girls were included the following year. In 1996, heavy snow initiated a mass evacuation and two years later a heat wave created a major risk of dehydration. The expedition now starts and ends at Okehampton Camp.

David Rippon thanked Simon for his most interesting talk which showed an astounding knowledge of Dartmoor. The subject for our September meeting is “The Falkland Islands and Antarctica”.

Tavistock Probus Club is pleased to welcome new members. If you would like to join us, please have a word with our secretary on 01822 615669.

Posted by TPC-ADMIN on June 4, 2016

My Family Life in China

China is one of the world’s fastest growing major economies with a population of 1.4 billion and covering an area 73 times the size of England. In this month’s talk, Peter Brinsden gave members an illuminating description of life in China and how this has changed over the past 100 years.

Tell us a bit about yourself Peter

Peter was born in Peking in 1940. His great great grandfather moved to China in 1856 as an American Presbyterian missionary. His great grandfather Robert supervised the building of a university in Hangchow (now Hangzhou) in 1912. Peter’s father was taught Chinese by the tutor to the last Emporer of China (Puyi) and Peter, himself, has travelled and lectured extensively throughout China, including visits to Xi’an which was the start of the famous Silk Road and is now famous for its terracotta warriors. Peter had the honour of giving a lecture in The Great Hall of the People and has four Honorary Professorships at Universities in China.

Life in China

Life in China has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Horse drawn carts have been replaced by bullet trains and shanty towns by modern skyscrapers. The Chinese people are generally very happy people – Peter’s presentation was notably full of smiling faces. China now contains one of the largest Christian communities in the world, possibly numbering over 100 million.

Members were also given an insight into modern China: the modern hospitals and the flourishing traditional medicine markets; the shopping malls and the many massive infrastructure projects. The Three Gorges Dam is an imposing example, towering to a height of 600ft.

Peter Lane, our Vice Chairman, thanked Peter for his most interesting talk. In July, the Tavistock Probus Club will hold its Club Lunch at the Bedford Hotel.

Tavistock Probus Club is pleased to welcome new members. If you are interested in joining, please have a word with our secretary on 01822 615669.