OCTOBER saw the return of Dr Bob Bushaway, of Birmingham University, who spoke last year on the subject of the First World War as it had been portrayed by various artists.

His subject was "The English Harvest" and again it was viewed through descriptive eyes of many artists down the centuries.

Dr Bushaway asserted that at one time, harvest time had been of great importance to the whole community, whereas in our own time, it is somewhat less important and less noticed.

Apart from picking apples and attending harvest festivals at church, it is little noticed.

In past times harvest was important as a means of simple survival by the storing of harvested food.

Life during the Middle Ages has been described as "nasty, brutish and short" and as such, the time of harvest provided a highlight during the year with something to celebrate.

Well-known pictures of harvest plenty during the later Middle Ages are by Pieter Brueghel, who chronicled the European bucolic life with exhausted peasants sleeping in haystacks after labours in the fields.

In England, the most famous painter of country life and harvest scenes was Samuel Palmer, while Sir George Clausen painted many wonderful scenes of Victorian country life and workers during the harvest, celebrating the fact that "all was safely gathered in".

Dr Bushaway stressed that fear of winter loomed large in the lives of country people when they depended almost entirely for food on what could be harvested and saved during the harsh days of winter.

In medieval times, there was a genuine fear of starvation during winter if the harvest had been poor.

Corn dollies produced from the last sheaf of corn harvested were produced in symbolic and local designs and were deemed to be good luck.

The next meeting tonight will be entitled "The History of Petrol Filling Stations 1895-1939" when the speaker will be Mr T Lord.

Meetings are at Greig Hall and start at 8pm. Non-members welcome.