Alnmouth WI, May meeting

The first meeting of the beginning of Alnmouth’s WI year was an almost full house.

Not sure if it was the enthusiasm of our members getting off to a good start or the expectation of listening to an excellent speaker. As it turned out both ticked the boxes.

After our usual warm welcome from Haley, our returned president, Yvonne, also back in her role as secretary, continued, with the reading of the minutes covering both the April and annual meetings and Haley then introduced our new committee to the members and their given roles.

Haley went through various items which needed attention and in particular this year’s chosen resolution.

The one which will be debated at both local and national level before finally going to the national annual meeting will be Decline of our High Streets and Town Centres and, as it is particularly relevant to our county town, Alnwick, and surrounding villages (including our own), there was a lively discussion.

It is certainly a very important issue and one we, as a WI, feel very strongly about – indeed the word challenge was mentioned.

Various other issues were discussed, including future events and the refurbishment of Cresswell House, our local head office.

After abandoning the monthly competition a couple of years ago, we are resurrecting it again and so next month, as our speaker will be the head baker from The Running Fox at Felton, the competition is a sandwich filling, perhaps not our mother’s all-time picnic favourites in this instance, Spam or egg and tomato.

We were then in for a big surprise as one of our members Mary Hollins, in keeping with our subject for the evening, appeared dressed appropriately in Suffragette colours, purple and green, with a song all about votes for women. It was quite an introduction to the subject of our speaker and really went down well.

Andy Griffin told us about Emily Davison and the Suffragettes and, for the next 40 minutes, he had us spellbound. She was quite a lady, very intelligent, well educated, who started her life in London, the middle daughter of her father’s second wife.

She was educated at Kensington High School for Girls and then went on to Holloway College, eventually getting a first at Oxford.

She got her degree at Oxford while working as a governess studying when she could. Her father died, changing circumstances considerably for her, but she was certainly a determined lady.

While Andy was telling us this story, Yvonne suddenly realised that she had gone to the same college as Emily, Holloway, quite a coincidence.

The story of her adult life is quite remarkable, giving all her time to the Suffragette course which at times was horrendous as she spent various spells in prison and was force-fed, which was really a form of torture from the description Andy gave us and, of course, she was very involved with Mrs Pankhurst, who also shared her struggle to get votes for women we take so much for granted.

Her final effort, of course, led to her death after her collision with the King’s horse on Derby Day and, although at the time it was assumed she had thrown herself in front of the horse, it may not have been so.

Forty thousand people lined the streets when her coffin was taken to King’s Cross, en-route to Morpeth, where she was eventually buried at St Mary’s Church in the town, not far from her mother’s home at Longhorsley, where the family moved to on her father’s death.

There is so much detail to Emily’s story which Andy covered so well that told far more than most of us have known.

When Clair Smith thanked Andy on our behalf, it was sincerely meant.

There is no way any of us would not vote now, hearing the struggle these ladies went through to make it available to all women in the UK.

Our evening ended with our usual cup of tea and home-made scone. Judi Woodford was this month’s birthday girl.