Spellbinding Stephensons

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Ulgham WI

In March, Ulgham WI had David Williams as their guest speaker.

The title of his talk was The Stephenson Women (Railway Pioneers).

This talk was to be about the lives and relationships of the railway pioneers.

David explained that he had felt inspired to write his book ‘Mr Stephenson’s Regret’, and that the research involved had taken three years.

We were transported back to the childhood of George Stephenson.

David spoke with great passion.

He was obviously mentally recreating the scenes for himself, as well as for us, as he described the conditions in which George Stephenson lived.

The small whitewashed cottage which was George Stephenson’s home was also home to three other families.

And the room which the Stephenson family occupied was smaller than our stage area at the hall.

However, this was not to be the usual history lesson of George and Robert Stephenson.

But rather, it was the moving story of some of the women in their lives — mothers, sisters, first loves and wives, without whom the Stephenson story may well have been very different, especially considering Betty Hindmarsh, who was George’s first love.

David was an extremely proficient speaker.

He held his audience spellbound as we rode the highs and lows of the famous pair and their almost anonymous, by comparison, female support.

It is rare to get a speaker with such physical presence and vocal variety, with such a compelling conviction for the subject matter.

When he asks you to forget everything you thought you knew about the origins of the miners’ safety lamp, you willingly do so.

So deep was David’s love of his subject that at times there was a catch in his voice when he spoke about the way the Stephenson men had been treated, and their lives and the women they loved.

If you get a chance to hear him speak, grab it with both hands.

What a fantastic evening.