David Skillen

Location: Belper, Derbyshire
About me...

I am an engaging and animated professional speaker on a variety of historical subjects. During my 35 years in the Civil Service I ran training programmes on public speaking and spoke to audiences from 5 to 500 people. Since retiring five years ago I have travelled extensively across the UK giving fully illustrated talks to a variety of groups such as, Probus, WI, National Trust, Local History Groups and U3A.
Married to Lynn I live in Belper Derbyshire, where I was also a guide at the famous Belper North Mill for three years. I have studied American Civil War in detail for many years  and we have travelled extensively across the United States visiting battlefields from the Civil War as well as the Alamo. We were members of the Towton Battlefield Society when living in Yorkshire, hence an interest in the Wars of the Roses. I was also a battlefield guide for the Society for 7 years.
More recently I have expanded my repertoire of talks to include such diverse subjects as The Royal Observer Corps, The Bentley Motor Racing Team and my adopted home town of Belper and its key role in the Industrial Revolution.


About my talks...

My talks, lasting up to an hour, can be customised to the audience and are fully illustrated with photos and maps using PowerPoint.  I have a projector and laptop.  All I require is access to power sockets plus a suitable screen or wall to project onto.

I charge £60 within 30 miles of Belper Derbyshire and £70 for over 30 miles – I do not charge any additional expenses.

I am available on week days and evenings.   If you need a speaker at short notice please contact me.


I am expanding my geographical coverage to include both North and South of the UK.

I charge £60 within 30 miles of Belper Derbyshire and £70 for over 30 miles – I do not charge any additional expenses.

I am available on week days and evenings but not weekends, I may also available at short notice – give me a call.

My Contact Details:

07840 735753

Talk 1: Seeing the Elephant – The First Battle of Bull Run July 1861

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In July 1861 the armies of the United States and the Confederate States met on the banks of a small stream in Virginia. Both were confident of easy victory and that the war would be over by Christmas.
But things did not go to plan. In this talk we explore how and why the battle turned out as it did, learn about some of the people who fought there. You will also learn how Stonewall Jackson got his nickname!

Talk 2: A few appropriate remarks – Lincoln at Gettysburg


On a November day in 1863, just outside a small Pennsylvania town called Gettysburg, President Abraham Lincoln gave a short speech at the dedication of a cemetery for soldiers killed there in July. What did Lincoln say and why has the Gettysburg address become so well known?
In this talk I look at the battle that was fought there, its significance in the war and the commemorative event that led to those “few appropriate remarks”.

Talk 3: Cyclones in Calico – Women in the American Civil War

Talk by Public Speaker David Skillen - Cyclones in Calico – Women in the American Civil War

From spies to nurses to songwriters women performed many roles in the Civil War, roles that hitherto had not been considered “lady like”. Some were former slaves like Harriet Tubman. Others like Clara Barton went on to form the American Red Cross.
In this talk we will encounter some of these formidable ladies. We’ll meet Mother Bickerdyke, learn how Sally Tompkins ran the hospital that had the fewest deaths in the Confederacy and see what a real Scarlett O’Hara looked like.

Talk 4 – Men, Monuments and Myths- Tales from the American Civil War

American Civil War talk by David Skillen

Let us visit what Abraham Lincoln called “this hallowed ground.” Statues a plenty that just beg to tell you stories of Great Fields and Great Deeds.

We will stand where Jackson stood “like a stonewall”, visit Chancellorsville to see the site of Robert E. Lee’s greatest victory and walk with the men making Pickett’s Charge.

Along the way we will meet many larger than life characters and a little dog called Sallie!

Talk 5 – Five Years in 50 minutes – An overview of the American Civil War


War is viewed as the most significant event in the countries history. But why did the United States and the Confederate States go to war? In this talk we will explore why and how the American Civil war was fought. Along the way we will visit Bull Run, Gettysburg and Antietam (illustrated with photographs I have taken on my visits to these battlefields), meet Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davies and Robert E. Lee and learn how the war produced the United States we know today.

Talk 6: Britain’s Bloodiest Day – The Battle of Towton 1461


Ask people to name famous battles in Britain and you get Hastings, Bosworth and occasionally Waterloo!
Yet few have heard of Towton, one of the most decisive battles of the Wars of the Roses and, possibly, the bloodiest battle on British soil.
On a bitterly cold day in March 1461 the Houses of York and Lancaster struggled for the Crown on a snow covered plateau in Yorkshire. Here fought Kings, Dukes, Lords and ordinary men. And here they died.
In this talk you will learn about the two kings who fought, walk the Bloody Meadow and cross the Bridge of Bodies and see how one Yorkist Lord had “a cunning plan”.

Talk 7: A Line in the Sand – The fall of the Alamo and the rise of Texas.

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In 1836 a small group of Texans were besieged and then wiped out by a much larger Mexican army at a mission station in San Antonio Texas. For many Americans the Alamo has assumed a near mythical status in their history and the John Wayne film of the 1960s tells it all.
But what did happen there in those 13 days? Let’s meet William Travis, Jim Bowie and Davy Crockett and see how the defeat at the Alamo led to the state of Texas being formed.

Talk 8 – Forewarned is Forearmed – The Royal Observer Corps in Peace and War

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New talk for 2016

From the Zeppelin to Nuclear Missiles the Royal Observer Corps was in the frontline of Britain’s defences. Famous for its role in the Battle of Britain the Corps played a number of key roles that are less well known. In this talk, based on my 10 years’ service with the Corps, we will see how the Corps captured Rudolf Hess; learn of its vital role on D-Day and the long years of the Cold War.

Talk 9 – The Bentley Boys – The Playboy Racers

David Skillen Public Speaker talks about The Bentley Boys

In 1919 Walter Owen Bentley built his first motor car. It was the beginning of one of the most charismatic marques in motor racing.

But equally fascinating are the men-about-town who drove these magnificent cars, Woolf Barnato, Tim Birkin, Glenn Kidston, Dudley Benjafield and others. Their exploits, on and off the track, led to their name “The Bentley Boys”. They summed up the devil may care attitude of the Roaring Twenties. In this talk we will look at how the Bentley Boys came to dominate racing, especially Le Mans – illustrated with photographs of the men and their wonderful machines.

Talk 10 - Knitters, Nailers and Traitors – Belper in the Industrial Revolution

Public Speaker David Skillen mentions East Mill, Belper Derbyshire in his talk  'Knitters, Nailers and Traitors – Belper in the Industrial Revolution'

How did a small town in Derbyshire help to change the world?

In this fully illustrated talk we explore the way in which one family, the Strutts, helped to change the way we work forever. We see how they built a thriving community that continues to this day.

We will go inside the world’s first skyscraper and meet the man who betrayed Belper’s secrets to the rest of the world.

Talk 11 - Giants in the Sky – The Zeppelin in World War One

Public Speaker David Skillen talks about Zeppelins in his talk Giants in the Sky

In the night skies above Britain in 1915 people saw huge silver, cigar shaped objects flying across the country seemingly at will – The Zeppelin! It was the start of the first strategic bombing campaign in history. In this talk we will look at the Zeppelin, how they were built and flown and how the Royal Navy, Royal Flying Corps and later the Royal Airforce defended Britain.

With plenty of illustrations we will see how the Zeppelin developed and learn about the men who trusted their lives to these majestic yet incredibly dangerous craft.

What audiences say about my talks

“With our knowledge of this bit of history (The Alamo) mostly confined to a John Wayne/Davy Crockett film and song, it was a most entertaining and enlightening morning.”

“Your talk was excellent and my strongest critics have asked for a return visit” – Speaker Secretary

“You can almost smell the gunpowder”.

“I wish you had been my history teacher – I would have listened!”