Talk Catalogue

General History

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Mirthy cannot guarantee the accuracy of information presented in the talks and we invite attendees to report any inappropriate content and behaviour by emailing alex@mirthy.co.uk

General History

Witness to History: Hong Kong 1974-2020

Talk Description and preview

Hong Kong is a city of extraordinary contradictions. Though it was a British colony before becoming a Special Administrative Region of Communist China, it has preserved its status as the freest community in East Asia. But today it seems that the uniqueness of this city is endangered as China tightens its control. Chris Forse takes us through the history of this unique place and reflects on its present and future.


Talk length - 41 minutes.

Chris Forse

Chris Forse was a resident of Hong Kong for over thirty years, including through the transfer of sovereignty in 1997. He was acquainted with some of the leading political figures, was an occasional columnist and contributor to radio talk shows and, as a teacher, held seminars, debates and role-play activities on Hong Kong’s future with senior school students, around the time of the Handover. He latterly became Assistant Chief Executive of the largest educational foundation in Asia, until retiring from Hong Kong in 2008.

Arsenic - The Victorian Housewife's Friend

Talk Description and preview

From a ballroom gown that floored the dancers, to wallpaper that rendered Queen Victoria's guest at Buckingham Palace unconscious; no wonder Arsenic has such a bad press. This talk reveals how, in the 19th century, this substance (which could be sold freely to children), was the culprit in countless careless deaths and also many sinister and sometimes systematic murders. Interesting and amusing.

Talk length - 38 minutes.

Graham Harrison

Graham Harrison (aka Sun Jester) has been working in history and heritage education for more than 20 years, delivering fun and informative talks and entertainments for all ages.

Poisons for Medicine

Talk Description and preview

A darkly humorous look at medicine in the 19th Century. The reign of Victoria saw the development of chemical medicine from medieval-style alchemy to modern pharmacy. Chemists lent their ingenuity to attempt to provide any cure their customers wanted. Some made fortunes, some made disastrous mistakes. As the speaker points out, our recent forebears must have had incredibly strong constitutions to have survived the lethal doses of over-the-counter poisons blatantly advertised as cure-alls. The talk leaves you amused and stunned in equal measure.

Talk length - 41 minutes.

Graham Harrison

Graham Harrison (aka Sun Jester) has been working in history and heritage education for more than 20 years, delivering fun and informative talks and entertainments for all ages.

Mad as a Hatter- Origins & Meanings of Sayings

Talk Description and preview

Some people could say that Sandy is as mad as a hatter because she is fascinated by the origins of the sayings we use in everyday conversation. There are more sayings than you can shake a stick at. For any doubting Thomas' out there Sandy will let the cat out of the bag and pull out all the stops to entertain you, with stories of how the sayings we use all the time, came about.

Talk length - 35 minutes.

Sandy Leong

Sandy Leong is an historian, passionate about bringing history to life and is a lively and entertaining speaker. She has a popular series of entertaining, light hearted talks on general historical subjects. However she specialises in the Tudors, an exciting time in the country as it was changing fast; and in the Viking period, who are much more than the stereotype of raiders in horned helmets. She is an international, professional speaker, and published author.

Hey Diddle Diddle - History and Meaning of Nursery Rhymes

Talk Description and preview

Passed on through the generations from parents to children, nursery rhymes have been part of our childhood. Many are veiled commentaries on political events and people in power, using subtle references and clever word play. Some nursery rhymes have it all, like a good film, royal scandal, illicit love affairs and bloodshed.

Talk length - 43 minutes.

Sandy Leong

Sandy Leong is an historian, passionate about bringing history to life and is a lively and entertaining speaker. She has a popular series of entertaining, light hearted talks on general historical subjects. However she specialises in the Tudors, an exciting time in the country as it was changing fast; and in the Viking period, who are much more than the stereotype of raiders in horned helmets. She is an international, professional speaker, and published author.

The Great Tea Robbery

Talk Description and preview

Perhaps the greatest theft of trade secrets in the history of mankind. Robert Fortune, a young Scotsman went to China to steal their secrets of tea. Travelling disguised as a Chinese merchant by the name of Sing Wa, he went where no westerner had been before, into the interior of China. An amazing tale of 19th Century industrial espionage to bring the best tea to the people of Britain. 

Talk length - 40 minutes.

Sandy Leong

Sandy Leong is an historian, passionate about bringing history to life and is a lively and entertaining speaker. She has a popular series of entertaining, light hearted talks on general historical subjects. However she specialises in the Tudors, an exciting time in the country as it was changing fast; and in the Viking period, who are much more than the stereotype of raiders in horned helmets. She is an international, professional speaker, and published author.

The History of Witches

Talk Description and preview

Behind the stereotypical image of the witch flying on a broomstick wearing a back pointy hat lies a long history of trials, persecution & torture that claimed the lives of hundreds of women & men. A belief in witches goes back a long time. Anglo Saxon kings made laws about their punishment. Henry VIII brought in the first English Statute in 1542 when no one was safe from the accusation of witchcraft. But things got far worse when James I's came to the throne and the witchcraft craze really took hold. 

Talk length - 41 minutes.

Sandy Leong

Sandy Leong is an historian, passionate about bringing history to life and is a lively and entertaining speaker. She has a popular series of entertaining, light hearted talks on general historical subjects. However she specialises in the Tudors, an exciting time in the country as it was changing fast; and in the Viking period, who are much more than the stereotype of raiders in horned helmets. She is an international, professional speaker, and published author.

From the Fury of the Vikings Deliver Us

Talk Description and preview

For 300 years the Vikings took the northern world by storm. In search of land, slaves, gold and silver, brave warriors and explorers set sail from Scandinavia. The speed and daring of the Vikings was legendary and Christian monks wrote with horror about violent raids on monasteries and towns. Anglo Saxon kings paid them off to leave England alone, but to no avail.

Talk length - 36 minutes.

Sandy Leong

Sandy Leong is an historian, passionate about bringing history to life and is a lively and entertaining speaker. She has a popular series of entertaining, light hearted talks on general historical subjects. However she specialises in the Tudors, an exciting time in the country as it was changing fast; and in the Viking period, who are much more than the stereotype of raiders in horned helmets. She is an international, professional speaker, and published author.

Life of a Lighterman

Talk Description and preview

Life of a Lighterman is a presentation by David Lewis. It describes how bulk loads of cargo were transported from cargo ships in the Docks in Hull, along the River Ouse and into the seed-crushing mills in Selby. The presentation is enlivened by audio testimony from 96-year-old Laurie Dews who worked in the trade from the 1930s to the 1980s. David sets the historical context, and Laurie 'tells it like it was' explaining, in his inimitable Selby brogue, the intricacies of the lost arts of singling out barges, unloading onto a board and the use of a warping line.

Talk length - 34 minutes.

David Lewis

David Lewis is a local historian living in Selby, North Yorkshire. A chemist by training, and a teacher by profession, a decade ago he left the lab to concentrate on his love of local history. He spent the last decade investigating the Hidden Heritage of Selby, including working for 3 years on a project largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, and setting up a ‘pop-up’ town museum.

Sentenced to 'Beyond the Seas'

Talk Description and preview

The true story of eight Worcestershire women sentenced to death or transportation in the 1780s who all ended up on the first fleet of convicts to Australia. One came back a rich woman, another became the progenitor of the largest living family of descendants living in Australia today.

Talk length - 46 minutes.

David Clark

Born and raised in London David Clark has lived and worked in Germany and Australia but returned to the UK in 1970 to live in Worcestershire where he is now retired. David has worked in shipping, been a rep for foreign newspapers and magazines. He's worked in theatre management, had two shops and ended up working for Age Concern. He was also a City councillor for 20 years and served as Mayor of Worcester!

The Life and Times of Edith Cavell

Talk Description and preview

Exploring the story of the British heroine who died in Brussels in 1915. Presenting the experience of regular visits to Brussels to research the hospitals and homes where Edith would have worked as well as the place of her execution - a humbling experience. The Life and Times of Edith Cavell talk tells her story supported by photographs of existing artifacts of her life.

Talk length - 48 minutes.

Melanie Gibson-Barton

From being an enjoyable part-time ‘hobby’ the repeat bookings for Melanie Gibson-Barton's talks grew to such an extent that she gave up her 'day job' to become a full-time speaker. Many of her talks have been commissioned by previous audiences for commemorative occasions. You can be confident of a high quality presentation. Melanie's website features just some of the lovely testimonials that she has gratefully received - www.toonstelling.com

Forgotten History Vol 1

Talk Description and preview

You've heard of the Great Wall of China, but do you know about the Great Hedge of India? Did you know that Rottweilers are Roman? And can you name the most destructive man in all of history? All these and many more weird and wonderful facts are revealed in Forgotten History a talk about the more unusual and unbelievable moments from history.


Talk length - 52 minutes.

Jem Duducu

Jem is a published historian and historical fiction writer. He writes and speaks about a broad range of subjects covering different areas and continents. His greatest joy is uncovering little-known fascinating facts and sharing them with an audience.

The Ancient Maya

Talk Description and preview

Have you ever wondered about the fascinating civilisation of the Ancient Maya of Mexico and Guatemala? Why and how did they develop such a brilliant and original civilisation in the jungles of Central America, and why did it apparently disappear? Let Neil take you from their early development to their glorious apogee around 700-800 AD. Tour their wondrous cities, and mysterious culture which has been made so much more accessible by the deciphering of their strange hieroglyphic writing. And finally, lament their tragic downfall.

Talk length - 48 minutes.

Neil Meldrum

Neil Meldrum has been a lawyer for 40 years. Now retired, Neil has the opportunity of indulging his fascination in all things to do with ancient history and the cultural evolution of mankind. Although an amateur, these are compelling subjects which have been undergoing considerable re-appraisal in recent years. Neil's talks range from the development and the cultural evolution of early man to the Maya and Aztecs of Ancient Mexico and the Incas of Peru, areas that he has visited extensively. More recently he has been focusing on early culture in Ancient China, India, Egypt and Mesopotamia and in particular looking at early religions in these regions.

Rationing with Mrs Cox

Talk Description and preview

Travel back in time to the 1940s and meet Mrs Cox who is determined to help everyone follow government advice to “Put Their Best Face Forward”. Discover the wartime work of the WVS as well as some fascinating beauty and food rationing recipes presented in a light hearted, entertaining manner.

Talk length - 38 minutes.

Jane Glennie

An actor and historian delivering school sessions in Southampton local museums,
Jane Glennie has been a public speaker since 2011 and has entertained many groups including WIs, TWGs, U3As, Probus as well as Care Homes. Her talks are engaging theatrical monologues based on stories, people or moments in history.

Big Ben

Talk Description and preview

Tim will describe the background into the building of the Elizabeth Tower – Big Ben – before escorting us up the 334 spiral stairs. As we climb, Tim will take us behind one of those beautiful clock faces; he’ll introduce us to the magnificent example of Victorian engineering that is the clock mechanism; before finally taking us to the belfry where we will stand in front of Big Ben, the most famous bell in the world.

Talk length - 41 minutes.

Tim Redmond

Following his retirement in 2006 from the Metropolitan police, Tim became a personal tour guide, providing day-long tours of London and other popular UK tourism spots. In 2008, he began working within parliament, primarily undertaking tours within the Elizabeth Tower (Big Ben). Before the Elizabeth Tower closed at the end of 2016, Tim took about 135,000 UK residents on tours of the tower, in addition to VIPs such as Michelle Obama and Bill Gates! He has since been a speaker, specialising in PowerPoint virtual tours within Big Ben.

Goose Grease and Brown Paper

Talk Description and preview

Can we afford the doctor? Of course not! A fun trip down memory lane to pre-NHS days and the kitchen cupboard remedies inflicted by our nearest and dearest! Honey, salt, onions, mustard…not to forget the snails, urine, string and cow muck!

Talk length - 56 minutes.

Kath Reynolds

Kath Reynolds - My library role allowed me the opportunity to develop my passion for reminiscence work both in terms of delivering sessions and training others. Together with a colleague from Stoke-on-Trent Museums, I wrote an OCN accredited course, "Delivering Reminiscence". This course was very successful and was delivered by myself for more than six years. I am keenly interested in people; their lives and their communities - my talks and reminiscence sessions reflect a great many years of collecting stories, memories and musings from the people of Staffordshire and surrounding counties. I am always vigilant to research and verify "facts" which are presented to me - although I often share the "facts" which are clearly fiction... purely because they are entertaining!

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