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During the war the Scottish section of the WVS tended to maintain a more independent status from the rest of the organisation. This is evident within our collection of Narrative Reports; the National Headquarters series has no records from 1942 to 1960, we hope they survived somewhere in Scotland. For many years WVS/WRVS had a Scotland Headquarters in Edinburgh which did not send Narrative Reports to London till after the establishment of the Archive in 1958. Fortunately, we still have other sources mentioning the activities of WVS Scotland and the Narrative Reports which made it to London HQ between 1939 and 1941 draw attention to the wide array of activities performed by Scottish volunteers in the early years of the war, one such report recorded the decisions of a local meeting held in January 1941 in the town of Ayr; it provides an excellent example of WVS Salvage work
The Waste Food for Pigs campaign was created as
part of the Government’s National Salvage Scheme to help maintain a constant
supply of feed for the nation’s livestock. In order to accomplish this, kitchen
waste was boiled and concentrated at special plants, thus resulting in what is
commonly known as pig swill. Working in tandem with the local authorities, the
WVS helped organise this scheme to ensure that salvage became an integral
component of wartime society.
To help address this issue, the above meeting
was facilitated by Mr J.B, Crookes, the National Controller of Salvage for
Scotland and also by Mr Strain of the local Cleansing Department and Regional
Salvage Advisor for the West of Scotland. Their attendance to this meeting also
demonstrated its significance, because it is quite possible that their
solutions for tackling ‘pig swill’, may have filtered down to other WVS
centres.Such as members of East Barnet, Hertfordshire featured in the two photographs in this week's blog. The meeting in Ayr laid out the schemes structure.
After a series of discussions, they concluded that the Burgh of Ayr would be
divided into districts for the collection of pig feed. To ensure there were
enough collection points, a bin would be placed on each street for every ten or
twelve households. One member from the WVS Housewives’ Service would be
responsible for each bin. The members were keen to implement this system
swiftly, so shiny new bins were distributed to five locations around the town
to then be placed on an appropriate street corner.
a) Allotment Schemes.
b) Fruit Shops, Multiple Stores, Canteens.
c) Tenement Properties.
d) Villas, Bungalows, Mansion Houses.
e) Hotels, Boarding Houses.
Royal Burgh of Ayr Centre Report January 1941
Due to the fact that this is the last year of reports we hold for the Burgh of Ayr
until 1961, it is very difficult to ascertain whether or not the solutions
proposed in this meeting were a resounding success. Although you might wish
to scour the Scotland reports featured in the WVS Bulletin during the war. Nevertheless,
the centre organiser for Ayr was more than complimentary about how the meeting
WVS later WRVS Scotland acted as both Region 11
and in some ways a separate organisation with its own Headquarters up until
1980s/1990s. However, it is evident from
the earliest records that their commitment to Lady Reading’s vision of voluntary
service was and is at the same level as the rest of Great Britain. Especially
true when it came to the establishment National (UK wide) schemes such as
salvage and the collection of waste food in the burghs.
Accessioning is the process where archivists record new
additions to their collections. Over the last year we have been given over
forty new additions ranging from objects, uniform, photographs, publications,
documents and many others besides. I thought that I would share two recent examples
with you this week.
WVS Canteen Worker
On our shelves waiting to be housed in a new acid free box surrounded
by plastazote is a 12 inch tall carved
plaster statuette of a standing WVS Canteen worker in WVS uniform coat, hat,
scarf and gloves. It was sent into the Chesham
House RVS Community centre in august this year after being brought by the owner
in the 1980s from a shop called Bygones.
Pictured in this blog she is holding four cups with her
fingers through the handles in her right hand and two with the fingers of her
left. She is also holding four milk
bottles against her chest with her left arm.
There are two tea urns at her feet to the right and behind her. On the front of the plinth is incised,
'W.V.S. CANTEEN WORKER’ in a serif script in capitals.
The reverse of the plinth holds a very feint signature
'Margaret H G???????' and a date '1941.5'.
Unfortunately a portion of the hat brim over and behind the right eye
has been broken off and is missing, and a crack around the whole of the neck
indicates that the head has been broken off and replaced. Now it is part of our
unique and very interesting collection it can be preserved and kept safe for posterity.
Lanarkshire Local Office Collection
This was one of the larger accessions of the year and
probably the last to arrive, we look forward to seeing what comes to the archive
next year. The documents which arrived in a large cardboard box was made up of
minutes, day books, Narrative Reports for Strathaven, Strathclyde and East
Kilbride, Quarterly Reports, Scottish Annual Reports, financial records,
emergency Services training programmes and publications. All these records tell
the story of the Strathaven and Strathclyde offices in the Lanarkshire/East
Kilbride districts between 1954 and 2003. One of my favourite items was "WOMEN'S
ROYAL VOLUNTARY SERVICE NOTES FOR MEMBERS" which had a very interesting FAQ
section including one which sounds more like a statement:
“Question: You are a class organisation, middle-class,
choosey and establishment-minded"
"Answer: Come, come, most up-to-date community welfare is
organised on the knowledge of demographic figures. WRVS membership is
representative of the communities in which they live and serve. North Country
folk serve North Country communities. Londoners serve London.
In a new “young families” housing complex, young marrieds
serve young family needs. In sheltered housing, elderly serve each other. I
suppose you imagine AB’s serve DE’s. you ought to think again!
(Note: Modern demographics have a way to classifying Very
Rich as AB and Very Poor as DE and Middle and Professional classes as C1 and C2.)”
In the early 1970s WRVS were trying new ways to attract
younger volunteers within the 20-35 age bracket. A new initiative was setup,
Evening Centres, usually run in existing WRVS centres where they led monthly
meetings to help attract younger members to take on WRVS services in their
spare time after work or study. As it is St Andrew’s Day on Wednesday I thought
we would look at the work of these centres in Scotland between 1971 and 1974.
In 1971 London Headquarters established the Evening Members Department
and corresponded with the Scottish Headquarters in Edinburgh to establish
centres in the Large Burghs such as Dundee, Aberdeen and Adinburgh. Perth and
Glasgow were not included in the original correspondence; the Chairman of
Scotland presumed the exclusion of Glasgow was an ‘oversight’ but was later
informed that Glasgow had already agreed with London to start a centre. Perth
even before the centres already carried out evening work had recruited three
volunteers aged 25-35 but had to put them in the Saturday Meals on Wheels
round. They were very keen to find them evening work although there were very
few activities for them.
Once founded Evening Centres in Scotland were a success,
take Glasgow for example, in June 1972 a member of the Evening Centres
Department in London visited to help set up a centre in the city it started
with an organiser (ECO), two assistants and four members. By the end of the
year the centre had 56 members with 20-30 turning up to regular monthly
meetings and taking on services such as flower arranging, hospital visiting,
nurses libraries, good companions and emergencies. Glasgow were also looking to
the future of the evening centre wanting to expand into visiting residential
homes and taking up public speaking to recruit more members for the endless
number of house holders who needed a good companion.
In order to expand all
these services more members are required and it seems evident that the ECO will
have to take up public speaking! This may or may not be a good thing for WRVS,
however, we are willing to try, and to this end have accepted an invitation to
speak on ‘the work of the WRVS Evening Centre and the role of the volunteer
within it’ to young people interested in the Community Service Section of the
Duke of Edinburgh’s (Gold) Award, Start praying!
Glasgow Evening Centre Report 1972
There isn’t much information about the centres after 1974,
perhaps a quest for another day is for me to research some of the other regions
in Britain to find the answer. Watch this space...
This week, a return to Reports from Everywhere’ this time from September 1965. There were so many stories included in this issue of the bulletin, I found it hard to cut down so you have an ‘extended’ selection this week.
Straight to the point
The District Organiser for Lewisham received a letter from a 10-year-old boy in a local primary school. He explained that he was writing an essay about the social work being done in the Borough and he would like to know about WVS. The Organiser invited him to see some of the work if the school would give him permission- WVS was very surprised one morning when the boy arrived with 24 other pupils and his teacher. It proved a very enjoyable morning and the children seemed to ask hundreds of questions and promised they would ask their Mums to help and also to send any cast-off clothing. One small boy asked ‘Do you take ladies who are bored?’
Layettes from Salvage
During the past five years Finchley (a district of the London Borough of Barnet) Centre have made 564 nightdresses, 473 vests and 416 dresses for the Refugee Layette Scheme. This has been accomplished by using the good parts of worn garments destined for the Salvage sack. Shirts and sheets are used to make the nightdresses and vests, summer dresses and underclothes for the little dresses. Hand-made jumpers are undone, washed and re-knitted into shawls; 395 of these have been sent.
Members and friends, most of the latter being elderly, some being disabled and with failing sight, are tireless in sewing and knitting - Their policy is: ‘We are sending a present to these babies, so let us make it as attractive as possible’.
Not once but many times
When we see the students are enjoying themselves at their annual romp and they rattle the collecting boxes before our face, we sometimes forget the enormous amount of good the money will do when they have shared it out among the many local needs.
Money from the Aberdeen students’ campaign and the Welsh Caird trustees took 58 elderly people from Stonehaven on a bus run inland to some of the loveliest villages in Scotland. In a year when the broom and gorse was a mass of blooms they saw whole hillsides covered in golden yellow. Memory pictures to cherish through the dark days of the year.
From unwanted to wanted
One of our ‘Make and Mend’ members in Herne Bay has made about 550 babies’ day and night dresses out of unwanted cotton frocks and skirts in the five years she has been working for WVS; at 82 years of age an excellent record.
A word in time
A member working with the Bath Meals on Wheels service had been delivering meals to the elderly occupants of a very old house. The smell of the house had for some time been slowly getting worse, and when she went one week it was so dreadful that she felt something should be done about it, so she telephoned the Gas Board and asked that someone should be sent along to investigate.
They thought she had made a mistake and should have telephoned for the Sanitary Inspector, but said they would send an engineer along forthwith.
When the gas installations were inspected it was found that all the leads or pipes going into the meter were completely adrift. When they telephoned our member to inform her of this they said that had it not been for her prompt action, undoubtedly all the occupants of this apartment house would have been gassed.
Music in Braille
A blind woman living at Putney, who is being taken care of by a Wimbledon WVS member, is getting on well. Our member is taking great interest in her welfare, and is making every effort to get her some music written in Braille. She is teaching herself the piano and is very keen on music which is one of her greatest joys. She is so happy with her visitor and evidently appreciates this interest in her wellbeing very much indeed.
Posted by Matthew McMurray, Royal Voluntary Service Archivist at 09:00
Monday, 28 September 2015.
Meals on Wheels,
Make do and mend,