Songs, soaps and sufferage: 3 months at Thurnham WI

Thurnham WI had a great start to the year with a talk by visiting speaker Tom Boyd, now a Reader at St Ann’s church, Singleton, who gave us a glimpse into the life of a nightclub singer. Peppering his talk with snatches of songs such as Where do I begin, The shadow of your smile, Catch a falling star and Magic Moments, Tom took us from his debut as a 7 year old in the church choir singing the traditional solo Once in Royal David’s City, only with the words and tune of Hark the Herald, to appearing alongside Tom Jones, Little and Large, Mike Yarwood, Jimmy Tarbuck, and Ike and Tina Turner.  Tom worked, under the name Bobby Day, as a singer for 20 years, in Manchester, Blackpool, Cardiff and around the country, and had many entertaining anecdotes of the ups and downs of his career.

Soap, bath-bombs and shower gel were made before our eyes at our February meeting. Speaker Matthew Lepp of Tigermuffin Soaps also told us something of the history of soaps and bathing. Back in 1000BC goat fat and beechwood ash were used to make soap, although this rather caustic and was only suitable for laundry. Much later Spanish soap-makers from Castille used olive oil instead to make a more gentle soap suitable for bathing, which also looked much more attractive. Those who couldn’t afford the luxury of olive oil might have used plant material such as Soapwort or the inner part of conkers as a soap substitute. Matthew mentioned more recent soap manufacturers too: William Colgate who built a factory in New York, Johnsons who made a soap with olive oil and palm oil (Palmolive), almost-local firm Lever Bros,  and Pears with their iconic advertisements. Matthew gave us all a sample to take away and also had a variety of goods for sale on the night, including soaps for gardeners and for Lego brick fans.

In March, fellow WI member Pam Wade came to talk about the history of the WI, not just from its founding on Anglesey in 1915, but from the beginning of the movement in Ontario.  One Adelaide Hoodlass was the driving force behind the Canadian movement to educate women in practical domestic and agricultural skills. After the death of her infant son in 1889 she entered public life, campaigning to improve education for women with the hope of preventing further infant deaths, travelling widely to speak at meetings  and writing a textbook on domestic science stressing the importance of cleanliness and frugality . Closer to home, Pam also talked about local activist Edith Rigby of Winkley Square in Preston. A contemporary of Sylvia and Christabel Pankhurst, Edith set fire to Lord Leverhulme’s bungalow to draw attention to the sufferage movement.  She was also a founding member and president of a Lancashire WI.  Pam explained that the WI had co-ordinated national campaigns from 1917 onwards on a surprisingly wide range of issues: a tradition that survives to this day.

Many thanks to all who supported our recent Quiz Night, and especially to Quiz Master Bill Jacques, and to The Manor Inn for their hospitality. The evening raised over £290 which will help pay for our speakers over the coming year.

Our next meetings will be on April 26th, May 24th and June 28th when the speakers will be Helen Cullen – Williams (Colour Me Beautiful ), Peter Bond ( First Aid ) and Dave Stubbs (Counselling ) respectively . We usually meet on the fourth Tuesday of the month in Thurnham Institute at 7.30pm. New members welcome!