Lentune  Probus Club

Lentune Ladies 

Members of our Ladies Club met on 3rd May, donned golden crowns and toasted the King and Queen, albeit slightly in advance of the actual coronation of HM King Charles III and Queen Camilla.

Our speaker this month was former detective Paul Stickler. Now retired, Paul indulges his passion for history and murder investigations to review some of the most fascinating cases in criminal history. 

In his talk entitled “Historic Murders”, Paul gave a gripping, detailed account of the of the case of 21-year-old actress Gay Gibson, who went missing in 1947 during a sea voyage from Cape Town to Southampton. 

Police boarded the vessel on arrival in Southampton and it slowly emerged that a first-class deck steward, James Camb, had been seen in her cabin before she went missing. Camb claimed he had been friendly with the missing woman but had no knowledge of her disappearance. He had injuries on his body for which he gave an innocent explanation. Confronted with information that he had been seen inside the missing woman's cabin he told a completely different story, claiming they had a sexual relationship. 

No-one still knows what actually happened, but Camb claimed she had died and that he had disposed of her body through a porthole. Despite there being no body, he was charged with her murder, found guilty and imprisoned.

More details slowly emerged during and after his imprisonment, and the story has a fascinating aftermath.

Our Ladies sat gripped throughout Paul's talk and questions at the end were plentiful. Lunch followed, with club members still debating whether the jury's "guilty" verdict was correct. 

Lentune Probus Club - Men

The men’s club met on 11th May, following the coronation. As is customary, club members toasted HM King Charles III and wished him a long and happy reign.  

Our speaker this month was Nick Saunders, who give his fascinating insight into the life and times of one of the New Forest’s characters, “Brusher Mills”. 

Henry Mills, better known as “Brusher Mills”, was born in 1840, grew up in Emery Down and then moved to Clay Hill where he worked as a labourer. In his forties he moved into a charcoal burners hut in woodlands near Sporelake Lawn, close to Brockenhurst, where he took up catching snakes. He is thought to have captured as many as 30 to 35 thousand of the unfortunate creatures most of which he sold at a shilling each to London Zoo as food for birds of prey, or for the manufacture of ointments to treat snakebites and other ailments. 

Henry was nicknamed “Brusher” because he used to sweep the cricket pitch at Balmer Lawn between innings.

A hugely popular man, Brusher enjoyed a regular tipple at the Railway Inn, Brockenhurst, which was subsequently renamed The Snakecatcher in his honour, possibly because he was in the habit of clearing his way to the bar by tossing a snake into the pub and then "heroically" capturing it and stuffing it back into the tin he wore on his waist. He was also a major tourist attraction at local fairs.

Brusher became homeless after his hut was vandalised and he took up residence in his favourite hostelry, where he died in 1905 aged 65. 

He was buried in St. Nicholas Church, Brockenhurst, where villagers paid for a marble headstone to mark his final resting place. It can still be seen there today.

Club Visit to Exbury Gardens

On a cold windy day, 16 members and guests met at Exbury Gardens for a tour of the Gardens led by Head Gardener Tom Clarke. We were accompanied by Tom’s nephew who was on work experience and a Gardener from Bodnant Gardens in Wales.

Tom started the tour with a brief history of the Gardens saying it was bought in 1919 from the Mitford Family by Lionel de Rothschild to pursue his love of Gardening. At its peak it had 150 Gardeners compared to today’s figure of 9 Gardeners, 1 Apprentice and approximately 20 Volunteers. It was not until the 1960’s that it opened to the public.

The next stop was the bridge over Gilbury Lane along the Main Drive which Tom explained was only built by Lionel because when he drove his Armstrong Sidley around the grounds, he did not like keep opening the gates that were either side of Gilbury Lane.

Tom then described the hybridisation process of a Rhododendron saying it can take up to 15 years once a seed has been planted to when it flowers. He then showed us the newly restored heather bed stating that heathers are becoming more popular and alongside this how a man and machine from Holland planted 100,000 daffodil bulbs in 2 hours to form the Golden Wave.    

We proceeded to the Main House where we were given a short history of the house and nearby was a large Oak tree on which hangs a large bell which children love to ring. Unfortunately, the many feet that pass over this area has damaged the roots of the tree. We were able to see the Gardeners solve this problem by placing a special membrane around the tree which spreads the impact of many people treading on the same area and burying it in wood chippings.

The tour continued through Home Wood where we saw some spectacular Rhododendrons in flower, unfortunately the Spring Colour is late this year and will probably be Mid-May when it is at its best. We arrived at the Top Pond which been relined this winter because it was leaking so much water and seems to have solved the problem.

On the way back to the main entrance Tom explained the close association Exbury has with Royalty. Tom’s predecessor John Anderson is now at Windsor looking after Windsor Great Park, Savill Gardens and Frogmore House. Exbury have recently donated Rhododendrons to Highgrove and Sandringham and Tom recalled how he was summoned to Highgrove to advise on the Rhododendrons by the then Prince Charles and how the two of them walked the grounds of Highgrove. Prince Charles also came to Exbury in 2019 to open the Centenary Garden marking the 100 years of the Rothschilds at Exbury.  

Thanks are due to David Sayers for organising the event.

Spring Luncheon at  MJ's Restaurant

On 19th May, some 40 club members and guests gathered at MJ's Restaurant to enjoy our Spring Luncheon, one of the highlights in the Club's social events calendar.

MJ's is the on-campus fine-dining restaurant at Brockenhurst College, where students learn to cook and serve outstanding dishes, under the supervision of catering and hospitality professionals.

A delicious meal was enjoyed by all, with friendly impeccable service and high-quality cooking. The restaurant is licensed and trainee sommeliers assisted with choosing wines, which greatly enhanced the meal.

At the end of the luncheon, Chairman Peter Meville gave a word of thanks to the MJ’s team. He also applauded the students involved and wished them continuing success in their careers in catering and hospitality. Events on the day were overseen by Cathy MacArthur, who also managed our booking arrangements. 

College chef lecturers involved were John MacArthur (in the main kitchen) and Sarah Smith (in the pastry kitchen).

The club made a donation towards the MJ's Fund enabling students to visit other fine-dining establishments.

Thanks are due to Bill Basham for organising the whole event. 

And finally, some good news: the Club has secured a tentative booking at MJ’s for next year’s Spring Luncheon.