Alnmouth WI, Meeting

Alnmouth WI celebrating 100 years of continuous presence in the village. Left to right:  Barbara Kilkenny and Marjorie Read, members of the Northumberland Federation of WIs, and Janis Crook, President of Alnmouth WI
Alnmouth WI celebrating 100 years of continuous presence in the village. Left to right: Barbara Kilkenny and Marjorie Read, members of the Northumberland Federation of WIs, and Janis Crook, President of Alnmouth WI

Despite our great misgivings about whether our special speakers, the ladies from The History Wardrobe, would get through to Alnmouth because of the ‘Beast From The East’, all was well.

They arrived outside the Hindmarsh Hall as promised, giving themselves plenty of time to set up before the arrival of most of our members, plus guests from Federation, Marjorie Read and Barbara Kilkenny, and representatives of the WIs in our Hotspur Group.

The weather wasn’t going to stop us celebrating 100 years of our continuous presence in the village, including through two world wars.

Pam and Janis went through what business was necessary, mentioning our up and coming annual meeting in April – one of the most important points being the dreaded election of committee members for this coming year. To make the meeting more interesting, a display of our archives will be available to show what our members got up to during the past 100 years.

Lucy and Merry, The Wardrobe Ladies, started with a bang, introducing themselves and describing what they had in store.

They had certainly done their homework about our WI starting in 1918, just before the end of the First World War, as they dressed in authentic clothes of that era and gave us a pretty good description of how it started in the village. Ladies of a certain standing were, of course, on the committee, and the rest of the members were just glad to be involved in improving their very variable skills. Having a night out with the ‘girls’ and a good chat over a cup of tea did not come amiss.

At the end of the First Word War most of the village wives had been left in charge of feeding and bringing up their families so joining the WI changed a lot of their lives, giving them the confidence to do just that by having a variety of ladies to advise them.

Each era was covered by Lucy and Merry dressing appropriately, and all done with great humour and laughter. There was much murmuring among members of “that’s exactly how my mother/grandmother dressed”.

There was a serious side to it, of course, as the WI played a great part during the world wars in knitting socks and balaclavas, plus sending food parcels and cigarettes (everyone smoked it seems – Woodbines), and also sending letters to the soldiers far from home. In our own WI archives there are letters of thanks from the ‘boys’, which we treasure, and these will be on view as part of the display mentioned above.

Apart from dressing in authentic fashion of the time, Lucy and Merry covered the resolutions that were voted on during the 100 years; some were eye-openers as most concerned issues affecting women.

Needless to say, they mentioned a top MP, who addressed one of our annual meetings in the Albert Hall, when the members took him on for being political in talking about the NHS. To say he was flabbergasted is an understatement. He may have thought we were just a bunch of pussy cats, but discovered, when the slow clapping started and gathered momentum, that we were, as the late Claire Rayner described us “a sleeping lion”.

This was an excellent evening and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it. We had been very worried because of the snow, but everyone turned up full of good cheer. Celia, our programme secretary, and Pam, waiting ready to receive them, breathed a sigh of relief.

Janis gave the vote of thanks on behalf of us all, especially appreciating the in-depth research into our WI over the last 100 years.

As it was a pooled supper our members turned up trumps. What was on offer was fabulous, and as it was a very special occasion, our 100th birthday, the catering team, headed by Ethel Cook, even set the tables with our traditional WI china teacups, plus lovely teapots raided from members’ cupboards – tea how our grannies used to serve it.