April Main Meeting

A beautiful, sunny spring morning lifted members’ spirits for the main meeting on Wednesday 14th April. A buzz of conversation – mainly about getting much-needed haircuts after the last lockdown – ensued before business proceeded.

The Chair, Chris Barwell gave updates to the 44 members attending on Zoom regarding the recently circulated programme (these updates are available on this website, see links under any of Home Page, Speaker Programme or Events headings).

Under Groups News, she went on to tell the members about a most enjoyable pasta lunch (on Zoom) enjoyed by the Gorgeous Grub Group (picture and write up on groups page). She explained that the two Walking Groups would be stepping out later this month on Wednesday 21st April. The first at Respryn Bridge with David Barker and the second, shorter walk, led by Gina Bridges (please ring her for details). Film Club, meeting on 20th of this month would be reviewing ‘Colette’ and ‘The Third Man’.

Next, Chris handed over to member and former Chair, Dot Dunning, who wanted to thank members for the support she had had whilst undertaking her ‘Step Up for Dementia’ challenge . She was thrilled to have raised over £800 to date for completing the 850,000 steps since starting her journey at the beginning of January; a journey made over 80 consecutive days and in the worst of the winter weather. Well done Dot!

In Community News, Looe Community Players will be performing their Play-by-Play 7, on Saturday April 24th, on Zoom, and members were encouraged to contact Dot Dunning to reserve a screen. Any voluntary donations received will be going to support Looe RNLI’s fundraising for the new lifeboat Ollie Naismith II

Nick Bailey, Vice Chair, informed the meeting that so far u3a Radio had broadcast 6 podcasts with the next being aired on Saturday 17th April. Topics this month will include the upcoming u3a Day, Ham Radio and an Inter-generational discussion held in the House of Lords.

Nick then handed over to the speaker, Mr. Ian Keable, comedy magician and author of ‘The Birth of the Hoax in 18th Century England’.

Mr. Keable gave an interesting and illuminating talk about 3 hoaxes of the time.

The first, entitled ‘Rabbit, Rabbit’, detailed the extraordinary tale of Mary Toft who was said to have given birth to a number of rabbits until, when threatened with a physical examination admitted that it had all been a lie.

Ian Keable and a slide of the woman Mary Toft who supposedly gave birth to rabbits!

The second, ‘Living a Lie’ told of George Psalmanazar (not his real name) and his lifetime of deceiving all he met; from pretending to be Japanese to being a native of Formosa (now Taiwan) and even writing a book about his ‘homeland’ which, although a work of complete fiction, sold out.

George Psalmanazar who lived a hoax right up to his death.

And finally, the ‘Bottle Conjuror’ – the unlikely tale of a magician who was to appear at the Haymarket Theatre where he would, in full view of his audience, jump into an ordinary wine bottle and sing. Tickets quickly sold out but the performer didn’t show and as a result a riot ensued. It was later discovered that the elaborate hoax was a wager of 100 guineas, set by the wealthy Duke of Montague, with other noblemen, to see if the English public would believe the tale. He won his bet and the term ‘Bottle Conjuror’ became a title given to an opportunistic impostor!

Ian Keable’s book about these and more hoaxes which will published soon.

The talk ended with questions to the speaker and members were left pondering whether or not we are as gullible as those in 18th Century.