Curiosity Corner

Do you know what speakers said in their lectures?

The best way of knowing has always been to go to the talks! In the early 1900s a minute book reported on the gist of a few but, annoyingly, only for a few weeks.

For instance, in December 1905, “Mr JL Higgs read a very interesting and instructive paper, entitled ‘The Church & its attitude towards Land Nationalisation’. In suggesting many reforms in land taxation, Mr Higgs advised all who were interested in the subject to read the valuable book by Henry George.”

Very occasionally the local paper would report. And for nine years a monthly magazine existed, called Purley Review, which once or twice made a short reference. The most curious of these was the report on Sir John Foster Frazer’s lecture in November 1927: What Other Countries Think of Us.

“Do other countries like us?” said Sir John. The answer was an emphatic “No!” The English “were only welcomed with genuine good feeling” in one country “and that of all countries, in Germany.”


If countries, travel and adventure are the most frequent topics, was there ever a period when literature was a relatively popular subject for talks?

Probably between the wars. In 1929 there were three in a row in the October: The Irish Fairy in Literature and Life, a lecture on Mark Twain, and An Evening of Laughter with Pickwick. While earlier that year GK Chesterton, no less, came to speak about Dickens and Mr Laurence Housman to discuss Poets and Plays.

(But there were also: With the Mounted Police in Canada, With Captain Scott in the Antarctic, My African Wanderings, Vagabonding down the Andes, and Tyrol – where the Mountains Blush. Meetings were weekly in those days.)


What is the most popular topic at Purley Lit?

Not literature! It’s travel and information about other countries, past and present. For instance, between 1989 and 1999 the society entertained members with talks and photography about 17 different places: the Andes (twice), China and the Silk Road, Ecuador (twice), the Galapagos, the Hawaiian Islands, Iceland, India, Malta, Morocco, New Zealand, NW Pakistan, Patagonia, Provence, Romania, Scilly Isles, SE Turkey, and Zanzibar and Madagascar.

That’s nothing new. In the 1926-27 season there were Lantern Slide Lectures on: Lapland – the Top of Europe; The Pageant of Ancient Egypt; and North Africa – Roman, Arab and French.

The earliest such lecture we can find in the records is in1920: From Tanganyika to the Mouth of the Zambesi.


Who was Purley Lit’s most qualified speaker?

On 3 November, 1936: “Prof AM Low D.SC, PH.D, FRGS, ACGI, MIAE, etc”  spoke on Men and Women of the Future, “a forecast that surpasses Lytton, Jules Verne, Bellamy or Wells”.


What is the most popular topic at Purley Lit?

Not literature! It’s travel and information about other countries, past and present. For instance, between 1989 and 1999 the society entertained members with talks and photography about 17 different places: the Andes (twice), China and the Silk Road, Ecuador (twice), the Galapagos, the Hawaiian Islands, Iceland, India, Malta, Morocco, New Zealand, NW Pakistan, Patagonia, Provence, Romania, Scilly Isles, SE Turkey, and Zanzibar and Madagascar.

That’s nothing new. In the 1926-27 season there were Lantern Slide Lectures on: Lapland – the Top of Europe; The Pageant of Ancient Egypt; and North Africa – Roman, Arab and French.

The earliest such lecture we can find in the records is in1920: From Tanganyika to the Mouth of the Zambesi.


What was the strangest Purley Lit meeting?

On 10 Feb 1920 the society enacted ‘The first meeting of the Purley Town Council AD 1950.’  That year it also held a ‘Mock Lord Mayor’s Banquet: speeches on burning questions of the day, by prominent members of the Government’.


What was the most original way society members invented to entertain themselves?

For March 26, 1911 they planned an Arabian Night on which members would read stories they had written themselves (as though by Scheherazade, bride of Sultan Schahriah, who successfully amused her husband with tales for a thousand and one nights, to stave off her execution.)