The WI President, Pat Essery, and I were talking several days ago and likening the present ‘Lock Down’ to the war years. Although then, as now, several items of grocery etc. that we use regularly were almost unobtainable, she pointed out that what kept us going as a Nation was the one thing that is so difficult to have now – the physical company of friends and neighbours. In the busy lives we all lead it is easy to underestimate how important that can be.
This set me thinking about Nether Heyford WI who will be celebrating their 90th Birthday in October. Although I have lived in the village for 50 years I only joined the WI about 17 years ago. However, when I was researching the history for the 85th Birthday I came across a lot of names that I already knew and by the end I felt I had got to know a lot more. What the ladies of the WI did for the village was incredible and I thought you might like to hear about just one of the war years in particular.
1942, and it must have seemed that the war would never end. Money and food must have been short, although food was possibly a little better in the country than the towns. During the year the ladies had allowed themselves a little frivolity and gone on a June picnic. It doesn’t say in the Minutes just where they went but it conjures up a lovely picture of a line of ladies with picnic baskets heading off along the path to The Mill or sitting on our beautiful green. A moment out of time in the horrors of war. In October they spent some time discussing if they should carry on over the next few months. The decision was made to miss November and then try to carry on as usual. This they did by holding a Jumble Sale and Gift Stall in December at which they raised £15 for two charities. As £1 from 1942 has the buying power of £47.43 today (according to the internet!) that was some achievement!!
At their Annual Meeting they had a Balance of £3.
During the year: £4 was sent to the National Institute for the Blind
The knitting class organised by the WI knitted 303 articles for the Merchant Navy
The War Savings Group (part of the National Savings Group to raise funds to
support the war effort) reported savings of £540 for the year.
They also sent eleven and a quarter hundredweights of potatoes to Northampton General Hospital. This was the result of the generosity of Mr Adams (Husband of the President and father of Hugh, who, as I’m sure you know, still lives in the village). Every year he would give seed potatoes to be shared between the members to be grown in their gardens.
This is just one year of Nether Heyford WI’s war efforts and when I finished going through the minutes at the Records Office I felt proud of all those ladies who gave so much of their time. Although I was born in Towcester and, as such, am a ‘newcomer’ I feel very proud to live in this beautiful part of Northamptonshire and to be part of this community. It has changed very little and those friendships will surely be making a real difference to these difficult weeks.
Mary Rice – Heyford Lodge – 01327 340101