Speaker for 6th January 2015

Photo: President Gordon Ward greets Brian Fillis, with Club Member Joe Alcorn (R)
Talk by Mr. Brian Fillis on ‘The Inca Empire’

Club President Gordon Ward welcomed members to this, the first meeting of 2015, on a fine sunny morning. The President then introduced our speaker for the morning Mr. Brian Fillis, who was a member of our nearest local club, Portstewart Probus, and a valued volunteer at the Rally last May, who was giving a talk about the 'Inca Empire’.

In 2014, Brian and his wife went on a 'trip of a lifetime' to South America. Brian gave us a brief itinerary of the trip, but the outstanding memory was of the visits to Machu Picchu and other Inca sites. The Incas had long been of interest, and he wanted to find out more. Brian then gave a fascinating description of the establishment of the empire the Incas build, ruling over 100 million people in the 1400s and 1500s, before the Spanish (notably Francisco Pizzaro, see link below) arrived and decimated the Incas in just 41 years (1531 - 1572).

As the Inca people had no written language (but see 'Talking Knots' link below), the only contemporary accounts of the life and times of the people comes from Spanish records and the letters from Priests - therefore somewhat one sided.

It wasn't until 1911 when Hiram Bingham (a Yale University historian, photo below) led by a local guide 'discovered' the ruins of Machu Picchu and started to tell the world about his 'find' that the modern world really became aware of this astonishing civilisation.

Hiram_Bingham_1911 Machupicchu_1911

Brian gave a great slide show of photos from his visit. Even though he was there on a less than sunny day (it rained most of the time), the photos were spectacular and the shear size and scale of the ruins were so impressive (see link below for a similar slide show). This is even more so when it is believed that Machu Picchu itself was constructed over an approximately 50 or 60 year period between the 1430s and 1490s with possible around 20,000 people and NO TOOLS - rocks were cut, carved and smoothed by beating them with hand held smaller harder stones!!!

The trips getting to Machu Picchu and the other Inca sites Brian visited, was almost as big an adventure as being at the sites. This involved perilous bus and train rides on mountainside dirt roads and single rickety railway lines, over high mountains and through very deep, steep valleys. Hospitality was warm and food an acquired taste - if you liked 'guinea pig' that is!

Brian's talk was followed by an interesting Question and Answer session. Among the things we asked were: 'How did the Incas move the massive stones?'; 'With no monetary system, how did the society work and what was all the Gold for?'; 'How did they farm on such rocky mountain land?' 'How did Brian and his wife cope with the altitude?'; 'What did the Incas worship?'; 'How did they preserve the dead bodies?' and 'With all the fabled riches in Gold and Silver, where were the mines?';
(For answers to these and other questions, follow the links provided below)

At the end of the talk a vote of thanks was proposed by Joe Alcorn, who said that this was the first talk of 2015, and he certainly hoped that future talks would be as interesting and informative as this one. The talk was well researched and beautifully illustrated, and given in a language that we could all understand. Many thanks were due for such an entertaining and fascinating talk. The thanks were passed on by the President and members showed their appreciation.

Mike Turner, Secretary

For a slide show of Machu Picchu and the Incas (from the internet), ‘click’ the link:


For more information about Machu Picchu and the Incas, ‘click’ on these links:
also visit:
For some ‘Fun Facts’ about Machu Picchu, try:
You may also find interesting:
’Talking Knots’