We had an excellent turnout of 40 at our January meeting for a talk by David Bryant, a local Education Officer from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI).
“The RNLI from Then to Now” began with a short video of a lifeboat at work in heavy seas and included a sequence of short videos throughout. David took us through the history of the RNLI, which was originally formed in 1824 by Sir William Hillary as the National Institution for the Preservation of Life from Shipwreck with the motto “The Saving of Life at Sea”, and explained that, as a charity, the RNLI is totally reliant on donations to fund a national service of 237 stations and 444 lifeboats that now costs about £40 a minute to run.
The history of the RNLI is fascinating. David talked about the progression and development of lifeboats from the early rowing boats that had to be hauled by hand into the sea to the modern all-weather craft capable of doing 40 knots in order to achieve the target of being 20 miles off shore within one hour of a “shout” (call out). We also saw the variety of boats the RNLI now run to meet the varying needs, including inshore lifeboats, hovercrafts and even modified jets skis to aid the RNLI lifeguards that cover 240 beaches around the country.
The presentation concluded with some interesting statistics. In 2015 there were over 8,000 launches, 18,181 people were assisted and 94 lives saved. The real cost to the RNLI over its 194 years in existence is 35 lifeboat disasters and 137 lifeboat crew lost, with the last major disaster being the loss of the Penlee lifeboat in 1981 when all 8 crew perished.
24th February: Annual Society Fun Quiz Night. All tables have been booked by our Members. However, if you think you would like to join in (Member or not), please contact Alistair Taylor (Tel. 886387) in case any of the tables have spaces available. We also have a prize draw. The entry price includes fish and chip supper.
All profits will go to the R.N.L.I., Sheerness Station. Details from Alistair.
21st March: 8pm: Stained Glass of Kent. A good sized audience met in Lynsted Church on 21st March, to hear Dick Bolton (a Freeman of the Worshipful Company Of Glaziers & Painters Of Glass) unfold the story of stained glass windows in our Kentish churches and cathedrals. The journey took us from the cradle of glass-making on Continental Europe (the location of the most suitable sand), through the migration to England and its technical evolution over the centuries. We were told of the transformation of glass from clear glass through to colouring by application of colours to the surfaces, thin laminations of colours to achieve transparency in dense colours (red) or blending primary colours (e.g. to create orange). Victorian inclusion of materials into the molten mass moved the art forward to bake colours and iridescences into the glass. We learnt that Switzerland and France evolved as centres of excellence.
Images found in windows were of stunning detail and complexity. Everything from biblical story-telling, through to family crests, the creation of sundials, animals and birds and, in the 20th Century, glimpses of impressionistic and abstract art. Techniques of decoration included the use of silver oxides bonded with the glass in greys (“Grise”). Other visual techniques rendered 3D images through fading colours and painting on both sides of a sheet of glass. The latter technique explains deterioration in some windows as they are weathered by the elements on the outside of the church.
We heard how flat glass was produced from blown ‘pots’ that, when topped and tailed, were scribed down one side to enable the glass-blower to ‘unzip’ the wall of the pot/bottle in an annealing oven, to unroll and flatten the glass into sheets. A variation in technique (Crown Glass) was to blow and spin the molten glass to create a disc thinner at the outside that could be used in stained glass leaving a ‘lump’ in the centre of the circle (familiarly featuring in “ye olde teashops”). Glass was produced of varying impurity and bubble content.
We were invited to close our eyes, to picture a world in which darkness descended at dusk, only interrupted by tapers, candles and fires – and those sparingly. Places of worship began to display a riot of colour and form, designed to create a sense of wonder.
Dick Bolton then took us through some of his favourite locations in Kent. Inevitably, Canterbury Cathedral contains some of the most developed story-telling and greatest expanses of glass, supported by metal frames. Of course, Rochester Cathedral has a magnificent rose window that throws scattered light onto the body of the congregation.
On a more intimate scale, Dick invited the audience to take time to visit some of his own favourites in Kent: Teynham, St. Mary displays some truly ancient (14th century) and beautiful glass panels; Lynsted, Sts. Peter and Paul has a more modern main window (1950) installed to include fragments of the original window after a stick bomb fell through the church roof in WW2. Lynsted also has a Millennium window in the Roper Chapel; Dover Town Hall contains a Victorian depiction of King Henry VIII’s “Field of Gold” as a fine example of commemoration through stained glass; Bishopsbourne, St. Mary, displays coats of arms and fascinating lanceolate windows; Patrixbourne, St. Mary; Ightam, St Peter contains etched glass; and finally, Tudely, All Saints, which is unique in the abundance of Marc Chagall’s uplifting art.
Dick Bolton held us with his mastery, energy, and story-telling. Most enjoyable.