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Climate Change Seminar

Continuing its practice of recent years, the Science and Technology Committee has arranged an afternoon seminar on Wednesday 16th June starting at 2 pm. The topic this year is Climate Change. It will be an online meeting and will have the format of previous years, with two short presentations followed by questions and contributions from the audience.

Dr Brian Tyler has prepared a discussion paper entitled, Climate change 2020 – looking back and looking forward summarising the present position, recent changes and UK plans. This paper will be circulated in advance of the meeting and Brian will speak to it. Dr Clair Gough, Senior Research Fellow at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, will then give a presentation on greenhouse gas removal (GGR) – which is an essential part of most plans for limiting the global temperature rise. Clair has carried out work for the UK Climate Change Committee (CCC) including as co-chair of a GGR Policy Options Roundtable discussion.

Participation will be through the BlueJeans Meetings App. Unlike the BlueJeans Events software, which is used for our lectures, BlueJeans Meetings allows all participants to be seen and heard and so everyone will have the opportunity to take part in the discussions. For this reason, the number of registrants will be limited and will be allocated on a first-come basis. Registrants will be given advice on how to download and use the link to the BlueJeans Meetings software and will be sent more information about the seminar itself.

Please note: This is a member's only event. We offer discounted membership rates to new members so if you want to guarantee your place at any of our events, we recommend that you join the society and book as a member.

To register for the seminar please contact and we will send you a personal invitation with further information.


Event Image: 'ONE WORLD. Global climate change protest demonstration strike - No Planet B - 09-20-2019' by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Summer 2021

22nd March, 2021


We are thrilled to share our Summer term programme online today!  There are so many interesting online lectures planned, and we have a stellar line-up of speakers who are all looking forward to sharing their expertise with you - directly to your homes!


Coming up

In partnership with the Institute of Physics, multi award-winning physicist Professor Isobel Hook will explore the wonders of the universe in Supernovae and the search for Dark Energy.

Professor Barbara Sahakian, Professor of Neuropsychology at the Department of Psychiatry and Medical Research Council will examine the technique of Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) in Sex, Lies and Brain Scans.

And in Sensation, Sensation, Sensation, the extraordinary collecting habits of the 5th Marquis of Angelsey, Henry Cyril Paget, in the late nineteenth century will be illuminated by Professor Vivien Gardner; a theatre and performance historian and Professor Emerita at the University of Manchester.


We hope to welcome you online soon!


On Wednesday 24th March, the Spring 2021 programme officially comes to an end. James Cordiner will be delivering the final lecture of the semester: 'The Past, Present and Future of the Manchester Ship Canal'.

For further information about the event itself - and information on how to register - click here

We had a chance to ask Jim a few questions about the history of the Manchester Ship Canal. His answers are very detailed and touch on everything from the inception of the waterway, to the origins of the Manchester-Liverpool rivalry, and Jim's documentary work. We also gave Jim a chance to plug his book, too.

As always, after Jim's talk, there will be a Q&A session. If there's a question you feel we may have missed, then you can ask him on Wednesday.

Q: What were some of the main objections to the constructions of the Manchester Ship Canal (MSC) – both politically and socially?

A: The main objections to the construction of the Ship Canal were driven by financial considerations. The main objectors were the Mersey Dock & Harbour Board, the Liverpool Council, the Bridgewater Navigation Company and the Railway companies. All of these had been benefitting from the trade destined to or from the Manchester region.

It also sparked the rivalry between Manchester and Liverpool. There is a 30 minute televised film available on YouTube, ‘A Tale of Two Rival Cities’ which describes the rivalry between Liverpool and Manchester. I assisted in the production and took part in a brief interview towards the end of the film. You can watch the documentary on Youtube by clicking here.

Q: By the time construction of the MSC was completed, Manchester was already referred to as ‘Cottonpolis’. However, what goods did the construction of the MSC allow for the North West to import and export?

A: In the nineteenth century Manchester and neighbouring towns were prominent in the production of cotton goods. The American Civil War (1861 - 65) affected the imports of cotton and this was followed by the world wide Long Depression (1873 - 79). Manchester district was in economic decline and traders complained bitterly about the expensive rates demanded by Liverpool. Shipowners using Liverpool had to pay dock charges and dues were levied on all merchandise passing through the port. If it were possible for ocean-going ships to sail directly to Manchester, these costs would be avoided. A secondary source of irritation for Manchester’s civic leaders was the belief that only a small proportion of Liverpool’s port dues was spent on providing dock facilities. The rest was spent on improving the city. 

Liverpool was charging high rates for importing raw cotton and the railway companies were taking advantage of their monopoly to charge high rates for the transport of goods to and from the cotton towns. Oldham spinners could buy cotton in Germany or France, pay the costs of importing via Hull, add the railway charges for transport across the Pennines, and still make a saving on the price paid for the same cotton through Liverpool. On the export side, over half the cost of sending cotton goods to India was absorbed in railway and dock charges at Liverpool. Oil and later chemical imports became a major traffic for the Ship Canal. At Stanlow by 1922, no.1 Oil Dock had been constructed followed by no.2 Oil Dock opened in 1933.

The Oil Docks are connected to the oil refineries by pipelines through subways under the Canal. Petrochemical products have been a major traffic for the past century and today liquid cargo tonnages represent the largest type of commodity handled in the Port. In the year 2019 the tonnage handled at Stanlow was more than 3.5 million tonnes.  

Q: When did the MSC reach its peak in terms of traffic? What benefits did this bring to the North West and Manchester?

A: Traffic on the Ship Canal peaked in between 1955 (18,563,376 tonnes) and 1959 (18,558,210 tonnes). This before the decline in traffic due to containerization and changes in world shipping, such as supertankers for liquid traffic.

The construction of the QE2 Dock, officially opened in January 1954, was another major engineering project. The entrance Lock gives direct access to the Dock from the River Mersey and was constructed to accommodate larger oil tankers than could enter the Ship Canal. The Suez crisis in 1956 and closure of the Suez Canal led to the building of supertankers.  There is an on-going project including the purchase of a new caisson and replacement upgraded hauling machinery. In 2019 the tonnage handled in QE2 Dock (including the Sheerlegs Berth which is on the Ship Canal) was 2.06 million tonnes.

Total tonnages for the Ship Canal in 2019 was 7,477,497 tonnes.

Warehousing and silo storage has been provided at Ellesmere Port, Runcorn and Salford over the decades, along with the provision of mechanical handling equipment such as quayside and shed overhead cranes, straddle carriers, Roll-on/Roll-off tractors and trailers and forklift trucks. The first British owned/operated deep-sea container service was launched from Salford Docks (to Montreal) in November 1968.  Container operations continue at the Irlam Container Terminal, the restored former steelworks wharf.

Using the synergy now available through Peel Ports incorporating MSC as part of Mersey Ports, this includes Liverpool and Birkenhead Docks, there are plans for potentially developing cargo handling facilities at Ellesmere Port, Port Ince, Port Warrington at Acton Grange and Port Salford at Barton.

Transporting cargo by ship helps to reduce our carbon footprint. This method of transport is thriving on the continent of Europe and it is foreseen that climate change pressures will ultimately bring about changes in policy and taxation that will encourage businesses to use water borne transport.

Q: You recently released a book entitled My Journey From Bengal. Did your travel abroad inform your career in mechanical engineering?

A: After serving an engineering apprenticeship (1961 - 66) I wanted to widen my experience and applied to Voluntary Services Overseas for an engineering post in a developing country.

My voluntary service in East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) was as an engineering adviser to a Co-operative run workshop producing agricultural equipment, maintaining tractors and irrigation pumps. At the end of my term of service (1966 - 68) I travelled back to the UK overland. My journey home took three months and the self-published book, My Journey Home From Bengal is mainly about this once in a lifetime experience and has many photographs and illustrations. Chapter 22 is dedicated to recollections of my term of VSO.

Thanks again to Jim for joining us. You can purchase a copy of My Journey Home From Bengal here

New Online Theatre Group

11th March, 2021


New Online Theatre Group


Here's a message from Arts Committee and Council Member, Joanna Lavelle - 


Dear all,

One of the popular activities we enjoyed when we were able to meet together in person was the opportunity to see a play together and discuss the issues raised during the play.  We have had a suggestion from member Manju Ghosh that we set something similar in our new virtual world.  So what is proposed below is a trial to see how much interest there is in such an idea.  If it proves to be popular we can extend this to include the National Theatre productions (Uncle Vanya is CURRENTLY available FREE on BBC iPlayer) and/or we could include films.


The Picture of Dorian Grey by Oscar Wilde



The Octagon, Bolton, has announced a new and modern production of The Picture of Dorian Grey based on the novel by Oscar Wilde.  The book caused great controversy at the time it was written.  Wilde wrote that, There is no such thing as an immoral book.  Books are well written or badly written that is all”.  Despite Wilde’s confident assertions the book scandalised Victorian England and was used as evidence against him when he was tried and convicted in 1895 on charges related to homosexuality. (ref

This production has a “stellar” cast including: Stephen Fry; Joanna Lumley and Russell Tovey. Tickets cost £12.00.


How to join the Manchester Lit and Phil Online Theatre Group

  1.  Book your ticket directly with the Octagon.  Watch the play between Saturday 20th March and Monday 22nd March. 
  2. Reserve a place in the Lit and Phil AfterWords discussion group on Tuesday 23rd March at 3.00 pm.  To book a place send an email to


If you have questions please contact Joanna or John on (not the Manchester Lit and Phil office).


We hope to see you there,
Joanna Lavelle on behalf of the Arts Theatre Group


Main Image: Kilyan Sockalingum on Unsplash


The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society asks UCLan researchers to uncover transatlantic slave trade connections


The first and oldest literary and philosophical society in the world has enlisted the help of researchers from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) to explore its historical links with the transatlantic slave trade.

The Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society (Manchester Lit and Phil), which was established in 1781, has a long history of advancing education and knowledge in literature, science, arts and public affairs. Previous high-profile members include the ‘founder of modern chemistry’ John Dalton, engineer and philanthropist Joseph Whitworth and fine arts advocate Margaret Pilkington.       

Now the Society, which has just celebrated its 240th anniversary, is working with UCLan Professor Alan Rice, an expert in Black Atlantic culture, and his team to explore what links its earliest members may have had with the transatlantic slave trade and the influences this had on the Society at the time.

Between 10 and 12 million enslaved Africans were transported across the Atlantic Ocean from the 16th to the 19th century as part of the so-called triangular trade route that brought cotton, coffee and sugar to Europe.

The researchers will investigate more than 900 members from 1781 until around 1860; using the Society’s own archives, the Legacy of British Slave Ownership database developed by University College London and the online database of the transatlantic slave-trade as well as multiple other sources. They will examine who benefitted from the slave trade, including links with cotton plantations in the United States, as well as notable abolitionist members who stood against the slave trade.


Tony Jackson, Vice President of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society, said:

“The transatlantic slave trade is part of the Society’s history and one we can’t ignore, even if what we learn may make us feel uncomfortable.

“The slave trade connections of our earliest members might have influenced the direction of the Society and certainly did impact Manchester as a whole, for example with the establishment of cotton processing factories, such as Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, which was built in 1784 by Society member Samuel Greg and employed many hundreds at its peak.

“Just as the modern Manchester Lit and Phil recognises the need to be more diverse and works hard to attract a wide range of speakers and members, it’s important to acknowledge the complex history of the Society.”


UCLan is home to the internationally renowned Institute for Black Atlantic Research (IBAR), which, led by its co-director Professor Rice, will conduct the six-month project.

Professor Rice said:

“The IBAR research team is very excited to work with such a prestigious and venerable organisation as Manchester Lit and Phil in such a vital project. The Black Lives Matter Movement highlighted the urgency of organisations being properly accountable for their past involvement in the highly profitable slave trade and historical silence on the issue. We are proud to be contributing to the important effort to uncover these hidden histories.”


The findings of the project will be published and shared in a public lecture to be given later in the year, with a possible exhibition also being considered.


Image: John Raphael Smith (1752-1812), The Slave Trade. Courtesy: The Whitworth, The University of Manchester


It is with great regret that since Christmas we have lost three of our long-serving members –

Mrs Barbara Rose-Innes – a member since 1966, along with her husband Professor Christopher Rose-Innes. She passed away in January, after being ill for several months, and both she and her husband were very regular attenders at Lit & Phil meetings. I have spoken to Christopher, expressed the Society’s sympathies. He hopes to continue to attend as and when it is safe to do so.

Mr Roger Rees OBE – a member since 1981. He also died in January, at the age of 91. He was the Chief Executive of Salford City Council, and had many interests, especially choral singing. I knew him personally for many years as a fellow member of Salford Choral Society. He was brought up in South Wales, attained a law degree at Cambridge and worked much of his life in local government. Our sympathies go to his nephew and his other relatives.

Mr Angus Yeaman – member since 1981 and also a past President of the Society (20021-2003). We were informed of his passing in late February, by his niece. I remember meeting him at lectures and he was a most interesting and charming man. I believe he was also in his 90’s, and our sympathies go to his family.


Susan Hilton




Kathleen Ollerenshaw - Mathematician and Committed Education Campaigner

Dame Kathleen Ollerenshaw was an English mathematician and educator.  Ollerenshaw served as Lord Mayor of Manchester from 1975 to 1976, as well as an advisor to Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s.

Ollerenshaw’s love of mathematics was inspired by another woman, Miss Jenkin Jones, who was headmistress at Lady Barn House School during the time Ollerenshaw attended the school.  She would go on pursuing a dazzling academic and high-profile political career, and she was devoted to mathematics.  Ollerenshaw published one of the first solutions to the Rubik’s cube in the IMA Bulletin—now known as Mathematics Today.  Legend states that Ollerenshaw damaged the tendons in her pursuit of the finished cube and her left thumb required surgery!

Ollerenshaw was also a loyal supporter of the RNCM, with music critic Michael Kennedy citing her as a driving force behind the college. She was Chairman of the Joint Committee and Court at the College from 1972 to 1986.


‘Dame Kathleen was a remarkable woman who will forever be remembered as a pivotal figure in the history of the RNCM.  Her loyal support to both staff and students remains invaluable to this day.’

Professor Linda Merrick, RNCM Principal


Ollerenshaw died in 2014, at the age of 101 and her life was warmly commemorated by many educational organisations.  The Department of Mathematics at the University of Manchester currently curates a series of annual lectures in her honour.



Alan Turing - IEKYF RQMSI ADXUO KVKZC GUBJ (Founder of Computer Science)

Alan Turing was a computer scientist, codebreaker, mathematician, and member of the Manchester Lit & Phil, too.  Frequently referred to as ‘the father of modern computing’, Manchester became Turing’s home following his work as a cryptanalyst with the British Intelligence Service during the Second World War. His contributions at Bletchley Park lead to the breaking of the German Enigma machine.

Turning was prosecuted for gross indecency in 1952, as homosexuality was illegal in the UK. Two years later, in 1954, Turing was found dead, with an inquest concluding that his death was due to cyanide poisoning, and that Turing had committed suicide. Turing was eventually pardoned by The Queen in 2013.

In Sackville Park, Manchester, Turing’s life is commemorated by a sculpture, unveiled on 23 June 2001, on what would have been Turing’s 89th birthday. Etched on the bench is an artistic depiction of a one of Turing’s ciphers that he used to help crack the Enigma Machine. When deciphered, it reads ‘Founder of Computer Science’.

The Alan Turing Institute is the national research hub for data science and artificial intelligence, based at the British Library. The Institute cites Alan Turing’s pioneering work in theoretical and applied mathematics, engineering and computer as central tenets to contemporary data science. The University of Manchester joined the institute in 2018.


Discover more

  • The University of Manchester Library holds a file of correspondence and papers accumulated by Alan Turing in relation to his work in the University's Computing Machine Laboratory
  • You can visit a recreation of Alan Turing's office as it would have looked during World War II at Bletchley Park



Margaret Pilkington - Talented Artist and Generous Philanthropist

Born in Pendleton in 1891, Margaret Pilkington attended at Manchester College of Art between 1911 to 1913, before going to London to study painting. In 1914, Pilkington enrolled at the Central School of Arts and Crafts where she studied under Noel Rooke and Lucien Pissarro.

Returning to the North West in 1925, Pilkington began her life-long affiliation with the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester.

During her patronage of the Whitworth, Pilkington donated water-colours, drawings, and textiles. Due to her efforts, the gallery managed to survive the perilous interwar period. In 1958, when the University of Manchester co-opted the gallery, Pilkington became Honorary Director of the governing committee, a position she held until her death in 1974.

Pilkington became the first female president of the Manchester Lit & Phil, and founder of the Society’s Arts Section in 1968, the final year of her presidency. Pilkington’s obituary by the Manchester Lit & Phil notes ‘The Members of the Society have every reason to be grateful for her great love and understanding of art.’


Margaret Pilkington was a creative, innovative and generous woman. A talented artist and noted philanthropist, she believed that art should be accessible to all, which, combined with her strong social conscience and work with Manchester’s less fortunate communities, has made her a pioneer in more than one sphere of Manchester’s history.

As the first woman president of the Manchester Lit and Phil, we are delighted that she is included in their anniversary celebrations.

Angela Petyt-Whittaker, Lorraine Coughlan & Jessica Smith, University of Manchester Library.


Margaret's generosity can also be enjoyed to this day outside of the city of Manchester: She and her sister, Dorothy, provided 75% of the money to purchase Alderley Woods, donating over 200 acres to the National Trust in memory of their parents, and thus conserving the woods from being used for development. The woods are still maintained by a group of volunteers to this day.


Discover more

  • The Margaret Pilkington Papers comprise correspondence, lecture notes, detailed diaries, journals, personal sketch-books, woodblocks and material relating to the Red Rose Guild of Craftsmen. They offer a valuable source for information on the arts and crafts in the first half of the 20th century.

  • Additional records relating to Pilkington can be found in the Whitworth Gallery Archive.

  • From our archive: 'The Whitworth Art Gallery Past Present and Future' - Presidential address to the Manchester Lit & Phil by Margaret Pilkington, published 1966



Ernest Rutherford - World-Leading Innovator and Nobel Prize Winner

Ernest Rutherford came to Manchester from New Zealand, becoming the Langworthy Professor of Physics in 1907, and settling in the city until 1919. During his time in Manchester, Rutherford was a member of the Manchester Lit & Phil and served as Vice President from 1909 to 1912.

In the orbit of the Manchester Lit & Phil, Rutherford moved his research to the University of Manchester. His variations of the ‘gold foil experiment’ of Hans Geiger and Ernest Marsden resulted in the discovery of the atomic nucleus from which Rutherford produced a model of the atom. For his pioneering efforts, Rutherford was awarded the Dalton medal in 1920.

At the University of Manchester, the Physics Laboratory was renamed The Rutherford Building in recognition of how the physicist transformed the University of Manchester’s nuclear physics department, allowing for future students to reap the benefits of Rutherford’s world-leading innovation.

It was also in the labs of the University of Manchester that Rutherford carried out his most influential—and daring!—experiment. Nitrogen gas was shattered against alpha particles and radiation was emitted. Rutherford deduced that this was the nucleus of a hydrogen atom. In short, this was the first splitting of the atom! For his efforts, Rutherford was awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1908.


Discover more