The Club for Professional Engineers and Scientists in and around Hertfordshire
Copyright 2019 HELC
The Club originated from technical talks on weekday afternoons in the mid 1990’s, run by the Herts Area Committee of the IEE (now the IET) and held in the Hatfield Lodge Hotel. Resulting from the popularity of these talks a speculative lunch was booked for 16th April 1997 at the Gosling Sports Park in Welwyn Garden City, to be followed by a talk by the Herts County Archivist. It was agreed that attendance for this should be advertised to engineers of all disciplines in Hertfordshire. The lunch was well attended by forty engineers leading to a further lunch being arranged for June, when there was increased attendance. From this promising support further monthly lunches were planned and a Committee formed having the task of organising lunches and talks, together with drafting a Constitution, soon approved at the April 1998 lunch.
The Constitution established that membership of the “Hertfordshire Engineers’ Luncheon Club” would be open to present and past professional engineers, from recognised institutions, who are resident in Hertfordshire and surrounding areas, and that members would be welcome to bring guests to lunches, on payment of the standard luncheon fee; a decision which was key to the future success of the Club.
Lunches continued to be held at Gosling Sports Centre until 2006 when this was changed to the present venue at the Homestead Court Hotel, also in Welwyn Garden City, which provided a similar 3-course lunch and facilities. Numbers attending lunches have now been constant for many years ranging from around 80 to 120 at each lunch, including some 20 to 30 guests.
These monthly lunches, together with talks on subjects of general interest to engineers, are the core activity of the Club but, also, there are a number of other well supported activities, of which the earliest was for day visits by car or coach. A programme of these is now a popular feature of Club activities, being unbroken from the first visit in October 1998 up to the present time. Three or four visits are arranged most years, mainly to venues of engineering interest, but also to others ranging from the Code Breaking Centre at Bletchley Park 1999 to the Olympic Park in 2012. To these day visits were soon added 3 night hotel breaks by car and later coach tours in the UK and on the Continent. Since 2011 short stays of 4 and 5 days at walking centres have been arranged for our more active members, who also take part in the Club programme of monthly rambles covering a few miles in the Hertfordshire countryside.
By 1999 activities of the Club were being notified to members by a 3 page HELC Newsletter, produced quarterly. This has gradually expanded to the present 12 or more pages in colour, issued bimonthly. Interestingly, development of the Club has closely followed the growth of home PC’s and the Internet, so that communication with members has moved progressively from only post to principally email, which is now used to send Newsletter and notices to nearly 90% of our 140 or so members. Recently the Club papers, including all of the Committee minutes and the HELC Newspapers, have been compiled in computerised databases to form the Club Archives.
The HELC website (this site, www.helc.org.uk) was set up by 2010 for posting recent Newsletters and other Club notices to members. As this is widely accessible, it is also valuable in spreading information about the Club to the general public, but care is taken to ensure that confidential information about the Club and members does not appear in the public domain.
Hedley Barker had been a driving force in the growth of HELC since its formation. He was the first Chairman, and in 2003 was given the honorary title of President, in which role he continued to play an active part in club affairs until his death on 19 August 2010. HELC honoured him by arranging the Hedley Barker Memorial Lecture in May 2013.
Major-General Eric Younson was President from 2010 till his death on 14 August 2013, aged 94. He was a most remarkable man, alert and active in club affairs till the end. He received fulsome obituaries in both The Telegraph and The Times as he had played a crucial role in Britain’s nuclear weapons programme during the early years of the Cold War.