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Audlem Women's Institute April Meeting

5th April 2015 @ 6:06am – by Stephanie Richardson
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Given that it was the eve of the Easter holidays, a resilient bunch of our ladies, warmly wrapped for an evening meeting due to a heating failure in the hall – dinner plates left hopefully for others to deal with – arrived for what turned out to be an evening of enlightening entertainment.

Christine Salisbury was taking the raffle money in the absence of Pat Smith, an onerous job, but successfully negotiated this time, after suffering an aberration last time when she sold both halves of the raffle numbers – easily done Christine!

Jackie Creber delved into her flower arranging skills in the absence of Pat Smith, to produce the birthday flowers, and once again our tea ladies magically produced, as if from nowhere, a splendid array of delectable goodies for our tea.

Our speaker, Joan Colwell, was to give a talk on 'Thank you Mr Lever.'

Now our members were all intrigued to discover how giving a talk on cleaning products, a subject most of us are experts on, could prove to be attention-grabbing.

Never let it be said that Audlem WI ladies pre-judge anything, after all always being right can be an awful burden, however the trouble with keeping an open mind is, of course, that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it. However this time it was worth the wait.

Joan's talk was not only about the Lever Brothers and their entrepreneurial success, but cleverly twisted into a personal story about herself and her family.

Joan began her speech by describing how William Lever had started his business and created Port Sunlight Village.

Lever, wanted his workers to share in his wealth, which they had helped him create. The squalor of the slums in which most workers lived appalled him and his guiding philosophy was that all men could improve themselves given a fair chance, in decent conditions.

Port Sunlight is a village purpose-built by William Lever for his soap factory workers and some 30 architects were commissioned to create a complete 'garden' village.

At a time when urban poverty and overcrowded slums was endemic, a cottage with running water and indoor bathrooms was revolutionary.

Schools were built to educate 500 children. For women and girls, special classes were offered in cooking, dressmaking, basket weaving and shorthand and by 1909, there were 700 cottages, a concert hall and theatre, a library, a gymnasium and an open-air swimming pool!

At this point Joan took an intriguing diversion and explained that three of William's sisters, who had never married, together with their elderly mother, went to live at Hesketh Grange and needed to find a maid who turned out to be Joan's mother and was named Violet.

The elderly sisters would leave social tickets for the staff in the hall and it was at one of these dance events that Violet met her husband Bert.

Joan herself was the third of their four children and was brought up in a Port Sunlight cottage, so everything she talked about was with first hand experience and with an added sense of humour which was infectious.

As a teenager Joan, coming back one evening from a St John's Ambulance meeting in Port Sunlight, chanced upon a group of young men who were there on a six months secondment as engineering apprentices.

As she hovered deliberately on the corner, next to a chip shop, one of the young men came up to her and asked her if she would like a bag of chips? Three years later they were married!

You can succeed at almost anything for which you have unbridled enthusiasm and it was obvious to our ladies that Joan spoke about what life has taught her and she never failed to keep our attention.

People can only understand what they feel and the only people who can affect them are those who move them. It was a thoroughly entertaining and enlightening talk.

Joan was the judge of this month's competition and Anne Watson came first (again!) I came second and Christine Plume came third.

Now second place is not a defeat. It is a stimulation to get better. It makes me even more determined.

Working on the principal – the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph – I am considering putting my name on Anne Watson's entry next month. Let's face it, it's the only way I'm likely to win and I'm getting embarrassed at having to surreptitiously place my entry on the competition table!

Now came the exciting moment when our President Lin Nicholas drew the name of the winner for the Denman Bursary from a bag.

The tension in the room was palpable, if we'd had a drum, I'm sure it would have been rolling, after a pregnant pause Lin announced to the world that Doreen Hubbard was the worthy winner! I would like to take this opportunity to remind Doreen that she can take a friend!

See you all again next month!


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