These Weekend meetings can be great fun, and this one was for me.
It used to be that we met only on the Saturday to hear some talks, but as so many members stay overnight from Friday we make that evening part of the weekend. Several members stay in the same hotel (as recommended by the secretary each year), but not everyone can get in, and some people like to stay in a cottage in the area for a week or so. But as we all get hungry, it is a joy to meet on Friday night and have a meal together. Alwyn Peel uses his Yorkshire skills to get us a good price, and this year he excelled himself. We paid £10 each for a two-course meal, and got an extra course for the same price! Alwyn told one or two stories about Yorkshire people that helped us understand how much money matters to them. I wonder if James Cook, another Yorkshireman, was the same, especially as he had a Scottish father?
Rather than drive straight to the hotel from my home in Ipswich, I like to take a detour to somewhere with a Cook connection. This year I chose Cotterstock in Northamptonshire.
Arriving at the hotel, I was greeted in reception by Alwyn, who was talking to CCS members Mike Surr and Paul and Wendy Wales. What a pleasurable way to start the visit. It took me more than one trip to carry all of my baggage from my car to my room, and each time I seemed to come across another member arriving at the hotel. So what could have been a chore became a pleasure.
Normally, I'd linger in any hotel room, taking my time to unpack. But not on a CCS weekend. Much better to hurry down to the bar, to find yet more members already there, and catch up with people I already knew, and others I'd not met before. And the same was true with the people around me on the table over an informal dinner. Good conversation and good food. My daughter Ruth arrives from Edinburgh, having caught a train after working hard all day.
After the meal we stayed in the hotel's dining room (being so many of us there were no other occupants) and took the opportunity to chat and show each other interesting items we'd brought along. In my case it was the Captain Cook books I'd acquired over the last two years. Quite a few people took note of the ones that interested them.
Saturday morning means breakfast in the company of interesting people: CCS members! A do-it-yourself toaster with varying capabilities gave the option of lightly toasted bread or the charcoal kind that I like. There's a choice of a small or big breakfast, but as it's included in the room charge, there's no need to dither over what to have.
The Captain Cook Birthplace Museum in Stewart Park, Marton is just a short drive away. Getting there involves passing St Cuthbert's Church, where the infant Cook was baptised and Henry Bolckow is buried. By special arrangement we're allowed to park near the museum rather than the main car park, which is a welcome privilege.
CCS member Phil Philo, curator of the museum, ensured we were allowed in early so our meeting could start at 10 o'clock. The walls of the room were covered with pictures and other items from the museum's collection. It was good to see material normally locked away in storage. I had a quick look in the Resolution Resources Room and made a mental note to go back at lunchtime. Ruth and I sat apart so we spoke to different people and could compare notes afterwards!
After a brief welcome from CCS President, Cliff Thornton, he surprised Alwyn Peel by awarding him life membership of the society, to great applause. [See also page 12.]
Phil Philo then formally welcomed us to the museum, and updated us on recent events and future plans. With many cuts to Middlesbrough Borough Council's budget, he warned us of the possible reduction in opening times at the museum and potential closure.
Diederik van Vleuten then spoke about the life of Samuel Holland, the surveyor who taught Cook so many valuable skills in Canada. Although Diederik had written about him in Cook's Log, it was marvellous to hear him tell us the life story, brilliantly illustrated. He then went on to explain how he came to learn that he was related to Samuel Holland and show us some items linking the two people, including some seals and one of Holland's published charts.
John Robson rose to the challenge of following him, by telling us how Cook came to be in charge of Grenville, the surveying work that was undertaken around Newfoundland, and John's researches into identifying who was sailing in the vessel at different stages of the survey. Much of what John told us appears in his book, but he included the results of further investigation he'd undertaken, which was quite revealing.
The lunch break gave Ruth and me the chance to catch-up and compare notes. Then I nosed around the plethora of books in the Resolution Resources Room.
The museum has acquired many books about Captain Cook and his voyages (and related subjects), some of which I'd not seen before. I felt very privileged to be allowed to pick the books off the shelves and browse through them, as this room is normally open only by appointment. It is a great way to decide which books are worth seeking for your own collection.
The first talk in the afternoon was by Irmtraut Koop. She explained how human and guinea pigs are linked by being unable to produce vitamin C and are thus susceptible to getting scurvy. She gave us a scientific explanation of what occurred, showed several photographs of the symptoms and explained how and why it keeps taking hold even in the 21st century. She then took us through the methods tried by Cook to prevent scurvy, and to cure it when it took hold.
Cliff Thornton gave the last of the talks, with the intriguing title of "The trails of three snails". He explained how the snails of Tahiti have been almost eliminated by the introduction of the giant African snail as a food crop.
Back at the hotel, Robin Stenhouse conducted an auction of many Cook items, though mainly stamps. It was very successful and he is to be congratulated on taking on this role from Harry Ward. We then had our formal dinner, for which many male members wore the CCS tie adding a bit of consistency to their attire. More good food and more good conversation. Once again Ruth and I sat at different tables.
Afterwards, Alwyn entertained us with some stories from his life, and then Steve Ragnall sang several folk songs that were warmly received.
Breakfast meant another opportunity to sit with and talk to different people, depending on who arrived when. Some members were leaving soon afterwards to travel home, others were discussing which sites to visit day in Captain Cook country.
Alwyn, Ruth and I headed off for Staithes, and I took my favourite route over the moors past Scaling Dam and then via a minor road to the coast. It was pouring with rain as we parked at the top of Staithes and walked down the steep (very steep) road to the Staithes Heritage Centre and Captain Cook Museum. It's always a joy to see the owner Reg Firth and let him guide you through his latest acquisitions, and we weren't disappointed this time.
Bernard Higginbotham had been busy again, and we admired the latest reproduction clock from Cook's Voyages: a regulator clock by John Shelton. As expected, we bumped into several CCS members in the museum, and marvelled with each other at the sheer number of items crammed into such a small area.
By now we were getting hungry, so we headed off to a wet Whitby and into Trencher's Restaurant near the Tourist Information Centre. More CCS members inside! Great service as ever. Good fish and chips.
Then off to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, where we found Sophie Forgan, who showed us round the special exhibition in the attic she had curated. This year it was "Northward Ho! - A Voyage towards the North Pole 1773". Although I'd read the catalogue, seeing the items brought the story to life, and hearing Sophie explain how they had been obtained for the exhibition made us appreciate the difficulties and effort required to put on such a fine show. Always worth a visit. Always worth hearing Sophie.
As we wandered the streets we bumped into more CCS members and discussed what we'd seen and where we ought to go next. A downpour decided it for us. A cup of tea! When it had cleared we left the café, and headed back to the hotel. Not so many of us that evening for dinner, so we ate in the bar.
Another weekend of interesting talks, great conversation and wonderful company.
All photos by Alwyn Peel and Ian Boreham
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 16, volume 34, number 1 (2011).
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