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I was saddened last week to hear of the death of one of Britain’s most popular stand-up comediennes and television actresses, Victoria Wood, after a short battle with cancer and I thought I would pay a small tribute.
In 2006 she wrote and stared in Housewife 49, a BAFTA Winning drama, based on the diaries of Nella Last a WVS volunteer in Barrow-in-Furness Lancashire during World War II. It was also adapted for the stage in 2013; Victoria Wood chose the small Old Laundry theatre in Bowness-on-Windermere for the performance.
Nella Last wrote her diaries for the Mass Observation project between 1939 and 1966, their archive is now held at the University of Sussex. In them she commented “I felt such a thrill to think I belonged to WVS.”
Housewife 49 saw Victoria Wood portray Nella last in her role as a member of the WVS, making hospital supplies, working in the local WVS centre and a WVS kitchen. This drama gave the silent history of women a voice and showed how their role on the homefront was vital to the war effort.
Thank you Victoria Wood
Stories from all over the country reported in the WVS Bulletin April
ASHTON UNDER LYNE - When in trouble, ask a Policeman to ask W.V.S! A
woman motorist was travelling from Wales to York in a snowstorm. On arriving at
Ashton she was told not to proceed - the Pennines were blocked. She went to a
Police Officer to try and find a room in a hotel but in vain. She then asked,
"Is there a W.V.S. Centre here?" Result. The lady was housed and a
garage found for her car.
BARKING - Swiss furniture has been given to
a young couple who were burnt out of their pre-fab. They have three children
Four W.V.S. members together with four Darby and Joan’s gave a very
good concert to the Club which was much enjoyed.
BRENTFORD AND CHISWICK - Demonstrations, when required, are being
given on briquette making, for fuel economy.
Co-operation with Hospital Almoner. Members have visited the cases
brought to this Centre's attention by the Almoner, helping in various ways from
providing spoons, plates, etc, to just paying social visits.
BRIGHTON - The trolley-shops are much appreciated at West House and
Ovingdean and it is hoped W.V.S. are saving the staff trouble over complicated
shopping lists. Special orders are now "featured" - clothing of all
descriptions is required and much help received from the shops who give W.V.S.
a small selection to take along.
CHINGFORD - A driver devised a wonderful idea to keep the meals hot.
She lined orange boxes with newspapers, then covered the inside and outside of
the boxes with old woollen cloth, from worn clothing, and put rope handles on
the outside, to ensure safe handling. On first expedition with these boxes was
asked "Where is the baby?" as they looked like baby carrier cots !
Each box holds about eight dinners.
EXMOUTH URBAN - First Darby and Joan Club in Devon opened on February
1st, 1949, and 28 appreciative folk spent a happy afternoon at whist, draughts,
dominoes and jigsaw puzzles. Later the club, is to be officially opened by the
Chairman of the Exmouth Urban District Council.
LAMBET - A short while ago recommended one of the old Club members
as a Sitter-In. The experiment has proved very successful and the old lady has,
in addition, taken over the family's sock mending. She hopes shortly to get her
employer to come and help us !
LUTON - Were asked by the Army Cadet Force if some W.V.S. members
would help with collections at two of the local cinemas. Many W.V.S. helped and
a letter of thanks has been received from the Luton Committee of the
Bedfordshire Army Cadet Force.
MALVERN - W.V.S. Luncheon Club is held once a month in the ballroom
of the Great Malvern Winter Gardens, and has caught on in an astonishing way,
being one of the most talked of ventures in the Malverns.
Between 1974 and 1992 WRVS was divided into Districts along the same lines as the Local Authorities, each District was managed by a District Organiser. Some of the volunteers who were interviewed as part of the Voices of Volunteering project talked about being the District Organiser for their local area. Doreen Harris who participated in July 2014 was North Norfolk District Organiser from 1975 to 1985. Here are some of her experiences:
How did you become District Organiser?
"Well, it was because the County Organiser, Joan, that I’d worked with for 11 years, she decided she wanted a change and she was going to leave. Well I didn’t want to leave but I felt that they’d have to get a new County Organiser and she wouldn’t want to get landed with me she’d want to pick her own secretary was the way I looked at it. And so the Regional Organiser came down and said ‘Well I’m glad that you’re not resigning too, what can we do with you’? So I rather cheekily said ‘Well I’d like to look after North Norfolk’, I knew they hadn’t had an Organiser, a District Organiser for some time. ‘Oh well’, she said ‘that sounds a good idea you’d better give it a go’. I worked from home at first, I’d asked if I could have an office if I could find an office and was told ‘Prove the work’s there and we’ll see about it’. So I worked for several months at home, which in a small bungalow you can imagine it wasn’t that easy. I began to get people interested to approach them again and they said ‘Yes, okay look for one’, so I found a little office in North Walsham which was lovely and so a little team of us went there. And North Norfolk has, is always my favourite district, and it was lovely because it went right round the coast."
As District Organiser Doreen was also called out on emergencies in North Norfolk
"I was called out when the sea came through at Walcott, this lovely inspector rang me up and says ‘Mrs Harris my boys it happened on the coast, they are so cold and miserable and can you help’? This is about nine o’clock in the evening, I said ‘Well, we must do something about them mustn’t we’? So I said ‘We’ll pick our team and be there as soon as possible’. So I gathered up the ladies with the tea, we got the urn and down we went to Walcott. And it was rather strange because the police were pretty looked after but we went into the village hall and they had wisely got a group of local ladies, mm, were looking after. And at first I think they thought we’d come to interfere, we said ‘No we just want to make sure you’re all right’, and we said ‘have you got enough blankets, because if not we’ve got some we can let you have’, ‘Yes’, they said ‘that’s, that’s fine’. So we said ‘Okay we’ll leave you to it, you know where we are if you want us’.And then we went on and fed and watered the police as well."
You can listen to the full story and find out about Doreen’s WRVS work before she became a District Organiser on our online Catalogue.
This week’s diary of a Centre Organiser and recipe come from April 1949.
Too touched when old Mrs Stoutley pressed a small package into my hand when she came to collect her “Cash and Carry” meals today. “That’s all right, dear,” she said as I took it protestingly. “I’ve just had a parcel from Australia. You give us what we need, I told my husband, and it’s only right we should give you what you need when we can.” Thanked her warmly... and only discovered after she had gone that she had given me a CAKE OF SOAP ! How do I take her remark now?
Stopped on my way to the office by an elderly man who pointed a quivering finger at my badge. “What crown is that on top of it?” he demanded. “No - I’m not disputing that W.V.S. has earned the right to wear a crown, but it’s not like any other I’ve ever seen. It hasn’t the blue emeralds of the Post Office - and it’s different from the one worn by the Coastguards...” My - frivolous? - suggestion that perhaps our crown is “a female of the species” was treated with contempt. "You ought to know about your own badge,” he grumbled, and I promised to make enquiries. (N.B. Shall enjoy being “superior” - when I know the answer!)
Miss G. came in rather thoughtfully this afternoon from a Hospital Car Service journey. The small boy she had taken for treatment from an extremely dirty looking house had been worried about something he had learned at school that morning. “Teacher said we’re all made from dust,” he said. “Is it true?” Miss G. had felt it best to agree. “Then there’s an awful lot of people going to be born in our house,” he had declared, looking rather scared, “and most of ’em under my bed !” Miss G. admitted she had felt quite inadequate to deal with the situation.
Here is a good recipe for individual Simnel cakes
4 oz margarine
3/4 lb mixed fruit
4 oz castor sugar
2 oz mixed peel
1/4 tsp spice
4 oz flour
Grated rind of half a lemon
Pinch of bicarbonate of soda
Beat the butter and sugar to a cream. Add eggs gradually and beat until the mixture is stiff and uniform. Stir in flour, soda and salt sifted together. Add fruit, chopped peel, spice, grated lemon rind and a few drops of almond essence. Mix well, then place in greased patty tins. Cook in good oven for 35 minutes.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 00:00
Tuesday, 05 April 2016.
Spinach and Beet,
Hospital car Service,
Cash and Carry,
Meals on Wheels ,