A round-up of your news from clubs and societies in north Northumberland.
WI: The business section of this meeting was kept to a tight time schedule as we needed 15 minutes of discussion about the Women’s Institute resolutions before introducing our speaker Virginia Mayes-Wright, curator of the Grace Darling Museum. Virginia’s talk was entitled ‘Life Before Grace’ and she gave us a vivid description of her personal journey into the professional world of museum management and artefact upkeep. Hers is a fascinating story from her time of study at Durham University to being curator of a light house museum in Fraserburgh with occasional times out in sleep-overs at the British Museum and with Viking re-enactors. January looks to be a very active month for members as we have a general clear out of WI items in the Pavilion before the builders start work on the kitchen and changing rooms, a 2013 lunch party date at the Barn at Beal on January 24, a walk to Bellshill Farm on January 28, a Village Show schedule meeting in the church on January 31 and a meeting to discuss possible entries for the reading aloud competition. The resolution resolving to keep young people suicide-safe online received a substantial majority vote to be carried forward. Our next meeting is on February 13 when Neil Fairbairn will give us the ‘tales of a shepherd’s life’. The venue will be the Grace Darling Museum as the Pavilion will not be available due to building work.
WI: Our January meeting began with a silent tribute to photographer Bob Huggins, who died recently and had always been a good friend to the Institute. We then reflected on the very happy Christmas party we had in December. Members had thoroughly enjoyed the wonderful buffet prepared by the committee, heralded by a superb WI grace written by Ciara. Later, we were regaled with readings from Sue, Jess and Ciara, followed by Ciara’s hilarious adaptation of The Twelve Days of Christmas, which she performed together with Jess, Vanessa and Pat. Written with mature ladies in mind it will never be forgotten! President Lynne Angus passed round special Christmas cards which had arrived from our twin WI in Appleton le Dale, and our postman Wayne, for us to enjoy. Business was kept to a minimum, a welcome consequence of the temporary closure of HQ. Members were asked to provide questions for April’s Gardeners’ Forum by the March meeting and informed that the competition for April has been altered to a ‘Gardening Tip’. The theme for the evening was Soup, Stotties and Stories. Whilst we sampled delicious soups made by committee members, we considered plans for our forthcoming 90th anniversary party. Nancy Wardropper then led us into the story section with a thought-provoking reflection on Queen Victoria. Other members followed with short stories, jokes and poems, resulting in an enjoyable and entertaining evening. The competition for something Victorian was won by Kathleen with a lovely delicate small cup, followed by Pat’s Bible and June’s decorative footstool. Members enjoyed a special New Year’s lunch at The Beadnell Towers Hotel the next day. On February 1 the luncheon club will visit The Castle Hotel in Bamburgh.
ROTARY CLUB: The recently-formed brain injury group in Berwick is to receive a £250 boost from the rotary club. The new organisation offers a chance for victims and carers to socialise and it has made an encouraging start. The rotary club council agreed to help. Vice president Simon Landels said the Christmas dinner, attended by 95 members, partners and guests, had been a huge success. The next major function will be President’s Night at the Black and Gold on March 2. The visit by a team of club members to Scremerston First School to read a series of Christmas stories had also been a big success, as was the traditional presentation of a Christmas cake to the Grove School. The cake, boxed by Berwick Middle School, was handed over by president Ken Budge. Members decided to make a grant of £300 to enable a number of cataract operations to be carried out in India. This is a service Berwick has supported for many years. Stephen Robson of Chain Bridge Honey Farm and his helpers were thanked for taking down and removing the much-appreciated Christmas tree in the town centre at Marygate. Members were told that the club’s participation in selling soup and mulled wine at the Dickensian Market had produced record takings. A curling competition organised by sports committee chairman Ian McCreath has been held at Kelso Ice Rink and a carpet bowling event will be held at the Swan Centre in February. Advance notice was given that the club will be looking for a new secretary to replace the very efficient Grant Findlay, manager of the Ayton branch of the Royal bank of Scotland. He has accepted an offer of early retirement and will be moving north. Grant is a member of the Berwick rink which represents England in rotary’s World Curling Championship. He was president in 2008/9.
PROBUS CLUB: The history of the Dukes of Eyemouth and Berwick was explained to Berwick Probus Club at their first meeting of the new year. Retiring chairman John Robertson handed over to Michael Yorke, vice chairman, who will stand in for Mr Rob Steward until he recovers from his recent illness. Speaker was Mr Fenton Ross who gave an illustrated talk on the dukes. John Fowler, to whom the speaker claimed the nation still owes a great debt, became the duke of Marlborough, a great soldier, statesman and master of deceit in baffling enemies. For his work he was originally appointed Baron of Eyemouth. The speaker believed the title could have been taken because he sailed from the port to London instead of Leith. His path was to cross that of Sir James Fitzjames, the duke of Berwick and duke of Alba in Spain. One of the world’s wealthiest women, Cayetana Fitzjames Stuart is currently the 11th duchess of Berwick. Marlborough was involved in many great military campaigns in he late 17th and early 18th centuries including his triumph at the Battle of Blenheim in 1704.
CIVIC SOCIETY: The Civic Society heard a talk by John Lord entitled ‘The Future of a Small Town in the Twentieth Century’. The subject was bound to be of interest to anyone with a sense of community and the speaker gave us incisive insights into the problems faced by Berwick. As the director of Project Bewick at ARCH he was speaking from practical involvement. Some small towns prosper, especially attractive ones within commutable reach of a large town. Here high income levels encourage investment. Morpeth was cited as one such town. Berwick, it was shown, has long been in decline. Since 1801 while the population of England as a whole has multiplied six fold, that of Berwick has fallen slightly. This has meant a correspondingly smaller workforce. Such towns often find a downward trend difficult to arrest. The workforce tends to be predominantly low skilled thus deterring inward investment and leaving an economic environment unattractive to incomers. Then those looking for greater opportunities move away, creating a talent drain. The service sector creates employment but the only well paid jobs are to be found in the public sector. Two prime needs were identified; Berwick needs to enrich and protect the quality of the town and to grow a high value economy. Mr Lord stressed that both need to happen, you can’t have one without the other. This requires a positive mind set to get good things happening while discouraging inappropriate development. Berwick would not benefit from ‘a race to the bottom’. Many small towns have similar problems but Berwick was diagnosed as an acute case. As with other places, Berwick’s role as a small town has been changing, and over a longer period of time than many of us may have thought. The chief agent of this change has been the car and increased levels of mobility. Old pictures show towns teeming with people in a manner not seen today. Out of town supermarkets, not seen till the mid 1970s, have come to dominate: in 2009 the big four accounted for 76 per cent of the grocery spend. At the same time the High Street has lost much of its diversity with the closure of building society and bank branches, post offices, and public houses while the surge in e-retail has put surviving local shops under greater pressure. ARCH is trying to balance the dual needs of preserving the heritage and attracting investment. The role of community contact was stressed in that what was done must have relevance to the residents. There are positive features. Berwick is the base of the substantial business of Simpson’s Malt. There there is the strong artistic quality of Maltings productions, the Film Festival being seen as a particularly good showcase. Just what community action can achieve is shown by the Granary Gallery, rated outstanding by Mr Lord. In these stringent times a need has been seen to reduce the scale of the Berwick core plan. Areas of prime concern are Walkergate, the Kwik Save site and the Quayside while among the plans, estimated at around thirty million pounds, is a possible library shift and a new Museum and Art Gallery. Offering a vote of thanks, Alison Cowe judged the Society to have ‘hit gold’ in inviting Mr Lord.
WI: Berwick WI started the New Year with a lunch in honour of Rabbie Burns. A wee bit early, but very enjoyable, nonetheless. The haggis was addressed, and together with the neeps and tatties, much enjoyed. We toasted in a non-alcoholic drink and a nice cup of tea - well, it was afternoon! The social secretary will be looking out menus and venues for the spring lunch in March, something to look forward to. A big, big thankyou to all the members who helped out, but especially to Evelyn, Anne and Isobel who did such a lot to make it the fun it was, finished with a reverse bingo. New to many of us but much enjoyed. The box of Celebrations was a popular prize, running round the table, closely followed by the Amaryllis! The competition for a red item was won by Dorothy Noble with Margaret Wood second. February 9 is our next meeting, 1.30pm at St Cuthbert’s Centre, Walkergate when we look forward to finding out the secrets of wood-turning from Graham Ambrose. Competition is for a blue item.
RESIDENTS ASSOCIATION: The next meeting of St. Boisil’s Residents’ Association will be the AGM, to be held in the Church Hall, opposite St Bartholomews Church, Tweedmouth, on Tuesday, January 22, at 7pm.
WI: December saw members enjoying a Christmas meal at the Bluebell at Crookham. Good food and excellent company with Secret Santa parcels made for a great evening enjoyed by all. The president wished members a Happy Healthy New Year at the first meeting of 2013. This was a members evening and a quiz had been prepared, however chat and a discussion about our forthcoming programme aided by a drink and nibbles left no time for the quiz. We are in the process of compiling our new programme which promises to be interesting and varied and we hope holds interest for everyone. Our next meeting will be on Thursday February 7 when we will viewing scenes of the local area from times gone by.
WI: Mrs Clark presided over the January meeting and welcomed members and wished everyone a Happy New Year. Minutes of the November and December meetings were read. Members were reminded about the Burns Supper at the February meeting. County notices were read. Horncliff show - members hope to have a Hyacinth ready, other items were organised. Names of speakers for 2013-14 were put forward. As there was no speaker, members enjoyed games of Beetle. Supper was served, raffle drawn. Competition was a slice of Christmas cake: First J Woodcock, Second C Brooks, Third A Dickson. This brought an enjoyable evening to a close.
probus club: Bill Godfrey, our vice chairman, took the chair in the absence of Brian Brand, our chairman, who is recovering from heart surgery. Our good wishes are to be sent to Brian who had successful surgery on Monday and has already had his first walk. Fraser Suffield, our secretary, reported on recent attendance and membership and our treasurer, Forbes Grant, reported the state of our bank account. Bill Godfrey, now wearing his second hat as social secretary reported regarding our annual dinner which will be at Doxford Hall and asked for comments regarding his suggestion of two outings, one to Holy Island and another to the BBC “Pink Palace” in Newcastle. We were then introduced to our speaker Major Brian Finlayson who spoke to us very movingly on the Soldiers Sailors and Airmen Family Association. He explained that it was formed over 100 years ago by Sir John Kildare to look after the wives and families of military personnel serving overseas and how it now includes airmen and has now combined with Forces Help, he further told us that it helps all ranks and their family members and that during the last eight months it has helped out over 350 people at a cost of over £1 million. He also informed us that the Military Wives Choir donated half the proceeds of their hit single “Wherever You Are” to SSAFA. We were then shown a film illustrating the many causes of the need for assistance and finally Major Finlayson was asked from the floor to tell us about his walk through Scotland and across the North of England when he raised over £3,000 for SSAFA. This was a walk through dreadful weather and Major Finlayson is to be congratulated both on the amount raised and on completing the walk.
WI: It was the first meeting of 2013 and there was a good turn out of some 21 members. Next month, February 5, will be our 89th year and we are organising our party. The school children will entertain us with their instruments and Mrs Mileham has kindly said she’ll bake our cake. Our next pub lunch will be held on Saturday, January 26 at the Ship in Seahouses, 12.30pm. Our speaker for the evening was our local Mr J. Suthern. He had walked the length of the Camino de Santiago. He said that he’d realised he had more years behind him than in front of him and he had completed the Pilgrims way of some 400 miles in about a month. We were shown some beautiful slides of various places of interest on route, and of some of the characters he met on the way. The competition “S” was won by Mrs MacLachlan, Mrs Brenda Tinker and Ms Carol Philips and the raffle was won by Ms Sheila Young and Mrs Jean Dawson.