Pam Muggleton and Di Sparks ran our meeting as our president was down with a cold.
Pam welcomed everyone who had braved the minus temperature, presenting new members with our Alnmouth WI booklet, plus a video that Orion TV produced for our 90th birthday.
First on the agenda was an invitation to the Hindmarsh Hall Renovation Appeal on February 17, followed by various Federation activities, including an invitation to a Hotspur Group fund-raiser quiz on March 21, and our monthly coffee morning at The Gallery on February 15.
As our next meeting is our first centenary event, we were reminded that it will be a pooled finger-buffet and all members need a ticket as it is strictly for members and guests. Our entertainers will be the ladies presenting The History Wardrobe, taking us through 100 years of fashion.
Our actual birthday party is on March 16 (again by ticket only), when we are having a buffet supper and entertainment by The White Gardenias, a great local group. Please remember to bring your place setting, plus a glass and whatever you want to put in it.
As Stoker Frater, our speaker, was waiting patiently Celia, our programme secretary, introduced him, telling us of the strong farming connection with the WI. It was of great interest as half of us didn’t know, apart from when the organisation started in Canada, that all WI committees originally included a farmer’s wife, a teacher and a nurse.
Stoker introduced his talk, entitled Who Says There Is No Money In Farming?, by beginning from his childhood at Abberwick, where he still farms.
Living with his parents and four brothers all working on the farm, he passed the scholarship to the Duke School, which he loved. He was still working on the farm and gradually improving it as the years went by, and took it over when his father retired.
He has been quite an entrepreneur during his 67 years, never being beaten when things weren’t going so well, despite nearly losing his farm when the interest rate went up to 19 per cent on the loan he had on it in the 1970s. He and his local bank manager went to Newcastle to try to save the farm and they did, being given some time by head office to sort things out.
He certainly held our attention with all his endeavours. He was president of the NFU for 10 years, among other things, and now runs the farm with one of his sons, as well as a company emptying and clearing up all manner of waste and converting it to organic compost and fertiliser – his description of his business being “if we can clean it up and spread it, we can use it”.
He is quite a character with a great sense of humour, and certainly gets a lot out of life, never missing an opportunity or wasting time.
Pam thanked him for his wonderful nutshell ‘autobiography’. Before supper there was a little add-on as during one of his chats with Celia he had mentioned that he was ‘done out of a WI tea’ once and just given biscuits. She asked one of our star bakers, Barbara Naylor, to make a lovely chocolate cake, which she presented to him.
The final laugh was for the competition, a homemade biscuit. Needless to say, we had quite a selection for supper.
The birthday girl was Ann Coyne, and the winner of the competition was Katherine White.
We are looking forward to seeing all our members at our March meeting – the first of our centenary celebrations.