Friday, 1 May 2009

Royalty and the WI

WI goes to Sandringham
For their April meting, Old Buckenham WI had a visit from Mrs Watt (also known as Maureen Rispin from Sandringham). She told them of her visit to Sandringham in February 1919, at the invitation of Queen Mary. They had met before this at the first meeting of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes in Caxton Hall, London. Queen Mary had invited Mrs Watt, a Canadian from British Columbia, to come and speak to the ladies of Sandringham to tell them about the WI which was, of course, founded in Canada.
Mrs Watt looked very smart in her costume of jacket and full-length skirt, with a hat. She had been enchanted with her visit to Sandringham, being shown round the estate, the stud farm and seen the flock of Southdown sheep. The meeting was held in West Newton Village Hall, to which the Queen and the Princess Royal also came. By having the Queen take an active interest at Sandringham, Mrs Watt saw that this would do wonders for the WI movement nationally and internationally. Later she wrote an article about this inaugural meeting for the first edition of ‘Home and Country’. She said she had realised her childhood dream of meeting the Queen, not in a palace but in her more homely surroundings. At that meeting the Queen agreed to be President and 60 ladies became members.
Meetings followed a format which many WI members would recognise today – talks, plenty of time for social chat, and refreshments. From a Minute Book Mrs Watt read that there had been outings by charabanc to Norwich and Cromer, six hostesses were in charge of refreshments at meetings, a talk had been given by someone from the Brooke Bond tea company, and many people who worked on the estate and in the gardens were asked to talk about their lives . They also had time for games though musical chairs could present a problem if there was one chair left and one other member besides Her Majesty – history did not relate who won!
To end her talk Mrs Watt read the Alberta Creed which sets out very simply and clearly the WI ethos. Doris Monkhouse thanked Maureen Rispin for her most interesting and novel way of bringing early WI days to life.
Pride of place at this meeting was given to Old Buckenham’s Cator Cup entry which had won second place. This was a lovely reward for all the hard work that had gone into producing the exhibit entitled ‘Wild, Wild Women’. With third place last year, second this year, what about 2010? At the end of the meeting the annual draw for the Denman Bursary was taken and future meetings were planned for the ‘floral’ themed Garden Party on Saturday 6 June at Susan Hunter’s home and also planning for the Village fete later in the summer.
The next meeting will be the annual resolutions meeting held on Thursday 28 May and the competition will be for a pretty cup and saucer.The June Lynn Barrow will be talking about the language of flowers and the competition is for a posy of five flowers with foliage.

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