The guest speaker at the April meeting was Peter Maggs, former rock musician turned physicist, who gave an enlightening and well illustrated talk on ‘The Untold Story” of Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
The next meeting of Diss U3A will be on Thursday 1st May, commencing at 10.30, at Diss United Reform Church .
The guest speaker, Alan Wilkinson, will talk on the subject ‘Suffolk Architecture Today’.
For further information on Diss U3A please visit the website or telephone 01379 642674.
As the ‘untold story’ unfolded we learned about the challenges of building Brunel’s third ship, the vast Great Eastern steamship, with its dramatic launch attempts in 1857/8. When the winches failed it was clear that more hydraulic presses were needed; three boilermen were killed when the funnel exploded and Brunel himself suffered a stroke and died the following year. Yet the maiden voyage to New York was a resounding success. The double hull saved her from fateful encounters with rocks and icebergs suffered by ships like the Concordia and the Titanic. In 1864 the Great Eastern was sold for a mere £2500. After ripping out the passenger seats, she was loaded with telegraph cable which was successfully laid from Kerry to Newfoundland. Another Brunel project, the two-mile-long Wiltshire Box Tunnel (opened 1841) cost the lives of 100 men. There is an anecdote that the Box Tunnel may have been deliberately oriented so that the rising sun shines all the way through it on Brunel’s birthday.
Brunel was recently voted second greatest hero (after Churchill) in the BBC ‘Hundred Greatest Britons’ poll so it was interesting to hear about some of the lesser known triumphs and tragedies as well as the successes of this remarkable innovator.