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Report on Two Talks by Alfredo Almeida, "A Gaze over Porto"


On Thursday 23 May, Alfredo Almeida gave his first illustrated talk, entitled “A Gaze over Porto”. The gratifyingly large attendance (43) was even more remarkable, since Alfredo had agreed at very short notice to be the speaker, in the absence (due to sudden illness) of the scheduled speaker Dr. Robert Bradnock. Alfredo has long since retired from full-time English teaching, but now lectures part time at the “Academia Intergeracional Rutis Porto”, teaching Advanced English and a course about Porto on which his talk to the BHSP was based. His keen interest in all things ‘Portuense’ stems from the purchase of a book at the 1983 Book Fair, which nurtured in him the strong urge to dig into the city’s fascinating background and history.


Alfredo’s talk, loosely based on a previous talk given in Portuguese at the Oporto Cricket and Lawn Tennis Club (OCLTC), of which he is a member, entitled “Olhares sobre Porto”, was far from being an identical repetition. It covered some little-known information about old Porto, much of it dating back to the 18th & 19th centuries and earlier. Some images and photographs revealed surprising information, such as that the “Igreja Románica de Cedofeita” is not really a Romanic church at all but the chapel of a former monastery on the adjoining site (now mainly occupied by the “Igreja Nova de Cedofeita”), which was demolished in the 1930s because it was considered ugly.  Part of the original chapel was knocked down and then rebuilt, forming the building that stands there today, which is used mainly for weddings. There were many other entertaining and surprising illustrations and anecdotes.


Such was the length of and interest in Alfredo’s fascinating presentation that he finished in mid-flow, with a question concerning two Spaniards (Puertollano – father and son), who were famous for the son climbing and descending the outside of the ‘Torre dos Clérigos’ in record time in 1917.  Our time was up and the question remained unanswered .... “wait for the next thrilling instalment.”


By popular request, Part 2 of the talk duly took place on Tuesday 4 June, with about 25 in attendance.  The ‘mystery’ of the Puertollano pair was revealed – i.e. the reasons why the son made the well-advertised climb was part of an advertisement for a brand of ‘bolachos’ (‘petite beurre’ biscuits) which thereafter sold widely. Alfredo showed a silent film of the actual climb, with a vast crowd (about 150,000) watching below, which is available on Facebook (8 minutes) or in a shortened version on Youtube (4 minutes).


Alfredo then went on to give a fascinating illustrated account of the history of public transport in Porto, including a description of the coalmine at São Pedro da Cova which supplied coal for the local electricity supply to run the trams. This mine closed as recently as 1970.


Twenty-seven people stayed for an agreeable dinner at OCLTC after the first talk. There was no dinner following the 2nd talk. The speaker was introduced on both occasions by Alan Dawber, Porto organiser of BHSP who, in thanking Alfredo, also acknowledged the vital assistance he receives from Janice Bain and Mª de Fátima Martins. As always, the staff at the Club were superbly attentive, with João Lago, the Marketing and Events Manager, deserving of special thanks.