Beckford WI celebrates its 90th birthday in style

Our February meeting was also the 90th birthday of Beckford WI. We welcomed 30 members and 30 visitors, many of them from Bredon, Newtown and Twyning WIs. We were delighted that Sue Wilson, the Gloucestershire Federation of WIs chairman, was also able to join in the celebrations.

Some of the members had spent time decorating the village hall with bunting, balloons and plants and it looked very festive and welcoming. Around the room were posters displaying ladies’ fashions, beauty tips, concerns and events in 1922. There were also numerous scrapbooks for members and visitors to browse through.

Our speaker was Angela Trevelyan, herself an haute couture milliner, who, thanks to a generous husband and three lucky bids at a Sotheby’s auction, acquired the definitive collection of Barbara Cartland’s hats.

Every hat had a story to tell, and never a dull one. They were mostly pink, her trademark colour. Hence our theme for the evening was pink!

Some were brighter and more intense, representing the setting sun. These and three others that she called Nile blue were inspired by a river holiday in Egypt with her then husband.

One of the most poignant was a wide pink hat with flowers and black chicken feathers, a reminder of the many tragedies in her life. The members were fascinated to learn that her life had swung between wealth and poverty, joy and sorrow, success and failure.

Most of us knew her from the myriad romantic novels she churned out. These made her the most prolific novelist of the genre and the age, outsold only by Shakespeare and Agatha Christie.

We were very surprised to learn that Barbara was a wartime worker, charity organiser, social reformer, aircraft pilot, and politician.

Barbara’s life spanned virtually the whole of the 20th Century, and Angela’s account cleverly illustrated the interweaving of her life
with many of the period’s main events.

Dame Barbara Cartland, DBE, CStJ, was not just a flamboyant novelist who wore pink hats, but a woman of strong character, great charm and keen intelligence.

Members gave Angela a prolonged round of appreciative applause for
her fascinating talk.

Beckford WI's longest-serving member Margaret Lodge cutting the 90th birthday cake

Beckford WI's longest-serving member Margaret Lodge cutting the 90th birthday cake

After the talk Margaret Lodge, our longest-serving member, cut the magnificent birthday cake, decorated with pink hats and flowers, made by another of our members (Margaret Darby).

County chairman Sue Wilson with Beckford WI secretary Diane Colvin

County chairman Sue Wilson with Beckford WI secretary Diane Colvin

Sue Wilson, the county chairman, made a short speech wishing us success for the next 90 years before asking everyone to raise their glass of sparkling rosé to a birthday toast. It was a truly memorable and enjoyable evening.

Our next meeting is on Monday, March 12th, at 7.30pm in the Village Hall when Nicola Clark will be entertaining us with Camper Vans and Comedy Songs playing her guitar, singing witty ditties interspersed with dialogue.

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