In the beginning there was a University of the Third Age, but how did it begin?
Way back then, I used to do manicure at local hospitals for the British Red Cross. One day at one of the Royal Bath Hospitals I was doing her nails for a 75 year old lady who impressed me very much. She was as smart as fresh paint, still driving her own car and extremely aware and mentally active.
“What has kept you like this?” I asked, genuinely interested.
“Oh! The University of the Third Age” she told me as eager for me to hear all about it as I was to listen.
“Where do you live and please tell me more?”
“In Huddersfield, where there is an extremely active membership of many hundreds of people. We belong to various groups, perhaps learning a language, or the History of Art, or Bridge, depending on what our interests are.”
U3A was formed in order that people may continue their education with no qualifications needed and none given and to develop interests in a great many subjects. Knowing that Harrogate had just such a community of residents and that in my mind I thought of the town as being likened to an elephants’ graveyard I decided to try and start a similar project.
I had some leaflets printed and posted them through the letterboxes of friends and local “worthies”, inviting them to attend an inaugural meeting at Red Cross House. I visited the library and had a chat with Jennifer Rawnsley who
offered to help. I regret I’ve forgotten the name of another lady who offered help, but she has since left us and gone to work for the Marriage Guidance Council, ‘Relate’. Mr George Mountford was another early enthusiast who left but has since rejoined the fold.
At the first meeting, there were seventeen of us so the University has grown into the several hundreds we have today. May I say here, that many friendships have been made, one or two romances have blossomed and it is, by and large, a gossip free friendly organisation that gives pleasure and purpose to a great many hard working people.
One area, in which it is helpful and supportive, is where members have been bereaved and have been offered a shoulder to lean on.
None of us know what it is like to complete a working life and sit wondering what on earth we are going to do with our time and sit twiddling our fingers. There could still be many untapped sources of group formation of people who are a little backward or diffident in offering their skills, so please don’t be shy and offer up your expertise, which will be received with enthusiasm, you may be sure.
In that way, the future of the U3A in Harrogate will be assured for years to come and the bedrock of what has become a valued club will be maintained.
In 1991 Harrogate U3A registered its first constitution