Budleigh Probus - a tale of two speaker secretaries and four signalmen

PUBLISHED: 07:00 01 February 2020 | UPDATED: 16:11 06 February 2020

Speaker Brian Portc, right, is thanked by Tony Venning  in heritage railway uniform. Picture: Martyn Weston

Speaker Brian Portc, right, is thanked by Tony Venning in heritage railway uniform. Picture: Martyn Weston

Martyn Weston

Members of the Budleigh Salterton Probus Club were left captivated after an insightful presentation about Brunel’s Great Western Railway on Thursday, January 23.

The illustrated talk, by Brian Portch, a Budleigh Salterton resident and speaker secretary for Sid Vale Probus Club, encompassed the story behind the engineering genius of Brunel.

Brian discussed the massive social impact of the railway era and, in particular, how the railway had a hugely positive effect on the whole of the south-west, bringing real prosperity to the region.

Four heritage steam railway signalmen from the South Devon Railway at Buckfastleigh were invited to attend the talk, along with the 30 Budleigh Probus members. The extended invitation to the signalmen was made by Budleigh speaker secretary Tony Venning, who is a volunteer crossing-keeper and station master at Staverton station.

The presentation was of special interest to the team from the South Devon Railway, who run steam trains with heritage rolling stock along a seven-mile former Great Western Railway branch line.

Yet, South Devon Railway representatives are no strangers to Budleigh Probus. Last November, a presentation was given by one of its railway volunteers, John Keohane, who was also a former Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower of London. In the talk, John described the 21 years he had spent 'Incarcerated in The Tower'. A couple of years before that, Probus members watched a presentation about the history of the South Devon Railway before and after its preservation.

Aside from talks connected with historical railways, Budleigh Probus has a jam-packed calendar filled with a wide variety of presentations covering several interesting topics. Forthcoming talks include 'A History of the Mining Industry in the Westcountry' by geologist and author Ken McKechnie on Thursday, February 6, and the 'Voyages of Captain Cook' by Ken Atherton on Thursday, February 20.

Budleigh Salterton Men's Probus Club meets twice monthly, in the morning, at the town's football club on the first and third Thursday of the month.

Anyone wishing to become a new member should contact Neville Lister on 01395 444 269. Read more about the club at www.bsprobus.co.uk


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