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Melksham WI activities in 2015

2015 has been a momentous year for the WI across England and Wales as we celebrated 100 years of the WI. 

In June, as part of these celebrations our member Heather McMullen was lucky enough to be chosen as our representative to attend a special WI Garden Party at Buckingham Palace, where the Duchess of Cornwall hosted the event, and the Countess of Wessex was also in attendance.

Fortunately although the day started wet and grey, it brightened up by the time the coach taking all the Wiltshire members arrived at Buckingham Palace, and remained dry during the garden party. Ann Finch our President represented both Melksham WI and Shaw and Whitley WI at the Annual Meeting at the Royal Albert Hall where the Queen, The Princess Royal and the Countess of Wessex attended.

At our June meeting we welcomed Val Procter who gave us a very interesting and informative talk on baptism and christening gowns from Elizabethan times to date. There was an opportunity during and after the talk to handle and admire the many gowns that Val had brought with her.

July saw us welcoming Kirsty Gray who gave a fascinating talk on family history; challenges, pitfalls and downright ridiculous as she took us through the process and difficulties you might encounter as you try to put together your family tree.

In August we welcomed Judy Wray Bliss who spoke to us about 18th Century Bath – The Season. What an interesting insight into the less glamorous side of life in the 18th Century. Who would have thought that ladies would stick strips of dried mouse skin to their faces for eyebrows!!

September proved to be the start of a very busy autumn for Melksham WI. We kicked off on a glorious sunny Sunday at the Food and River Festival where we had a stall selling teas/coffees and homemade cakes – what a fabulous day we had chatting to the festival goers and promoting the various activities of the WI, and in particular the Melksham branch.

This followed with a window display at the Coop Funeral Service highlighting 100 years of the WI which highlighted some of the many campaigns the WI has been involved with over the years. A few of which are:- Dig for Victory, Keep Britain Tidy, Save our Dairy Farmers, SOS – save our Bees, Time to Talk Organ Donation – which calls on WI members to speak to family and friends about what their wishes would be, concerning organ donation.

This led up to our meeting that actually fell of the WI’s birthday on Wednesday 16th September. Our members dressed up for the occasion by wearing hats and with many in period outfits.

We enjoyed a tea party with an entertaining talk from Jean Scott entitled ‘Uniformly Elegant’ where two models appeared in undergarments from c1805 and were gradually dressed in Jane Austen style for the lady and in Army uniform from the Battle of Waterloo for the gentleman – which followed on nicely from last month’s talk on 18th Century Bath. So in the space of two months we have looked at fashion from the 1700’s to date with our own efforts. Mrs Pat Lee made us a special anniversary cake which we all enjoyed.

September concluded with a few members attending the Magna Flora Flower Festival at Salisbury Cathedral – what a fabulous display – the Dig For Victory display below having special significance for the WI.

October saw some of us attending the Wiltshire Federation Annual meeting at Salisbury where the routine business was livened up in the afternoon when we were entertained by The Military Wives Choir, Two Men and a Piano and Michael Portillo. At our monthly meeting we welcomed Anne Tottingham who gave us a practical introduction to T’ai Chi which we all enjoyed.

Since September we have welcomed many new visitors to our monthly meetings, however, November saw us welcome a record number of visitors as we welcomed our speaker Verna Clifford with her guide dog Cody. I’m sure he had a lot to do with the extra attendees we welcomed.

Verna gave us an interesting insight into living with blindness and the various gadgets she has purchased over the years to assist her with everyday life – none of which are available from the NHS.

Verna then took us through the process of breeding and training a guide dog, which has a working life of seven-eight years. Each dog is specifically matched to the blind person to make sure their characteristics fit with the family life they will be entering into.

If you would like to join us, we meet on the 3rd Wednesday of the month a at the Riverside Club at 7.30pm. Potential new members are always welcome, for further details please contact Ann Finch 01225 436621 or email melkshamwi@live.com

Ann Finch

President, Melksham WI