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Presidents Message and Newsletter Number 87


Good Morning Sister Soroptimists,

Bunting and flags are now appearing along streets and in towns to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee.  Seventy years as Queen of the United Kingdom is a remarkable achievement and as I said in a previous Message, she is an “Exceptional Woman”.  There have been a number of interesting TV programmes about the Queen, including unseen film footage and special events, and there will be more to come over the weekend.

One of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Celebrations I enjoyed was the special Windsor Horse Show in the middle of May.  As well as a “gallop” through history as narrated by well known actors and actresses there were brilliant performances by service personnel from the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth.  The final procession of the Queen’s horses and ponies, including Lady Louise Windsor driving the Duke of Edinburgh’s carriage, seemed to give particular pleasure to the Queen.  It was lovely to see her in less formal dress for the event. She looked very relaxed in a cardigan and smart shawl over her dress.  In fact she seemed to get a great deal of joy and pleasure from the whole evening as apparent from the delight on her face.

As usual I enjoyed the Trooping of the Colour –  it is always a pleasure to see our armed forces on parade as they are so polished and put on a wonderful display.  Although the Queen wasn’t able to a[end it was lovely to see her on the Balcony with the Duke of Kent to take the salute as the regiments returned to Buckingham Palace.  She obviously delighted in being with her great grandchildren when the other working royals joined her for the fly past.

On Tuesday I heard a talk by Jane Gulliford Lowes, author of “The Horsekeeper’s Daughter” which is a true story of a 19th century woman, Sarah Marshall.  Sarah’s family had an itinerant life style as a result of her father’s job as the keeper of pit ponies – hence the title of the book.  They lived in different pit villages in County Durham and finally ended up in Seaham Village.  Sarah was a domestic servant which at that time was an incredibly hard job and meant very long hours.  However, her father died aged 48 years and her mother and 5 younger siblings were evicted from their colliery house soon after his death.  Sarah realised it was difficult for her mother looking after her sisters that she couldn’t return home.  Due to various social and political events in the mining communities she decided to move to Australia.  The Queensland Government launched a campaign to recruit experienced agricultural workers and female domestic servants with expenses paid, which was attractive to Sarah.  The rest of the book describes Sarah’s life when she arrived in Australia and shows her as an “Exceptional Woman”.  It is a fascinating story, with its local interest and the historic context regarding Sarahs life but also from the author’s point of view of why she wrote the book and how she undertook the research.  An interesting and informative read.

As you will have seen The Queen’s Birthday Honours List was published on Thursday and I noted some are “Exceptional Women” such as Arlene Foster, the first female First Minister of Northern Ireland, awarded the O.B.E. for Political and Public Service.  Dianne Buggy, a Community Midwife, Newcastle upon Tyne NHS awarded the M.B.E. for work with vulnerable mothers in the West End of Newcastle.  Patricia Husselbee, Newport, Women’s Section of the Royal British Legion awarded the M.B.E. for voluntary service to Veterans ( Poppy Appeal ).

Although the war in Ukraine is still appalling,  Ukrainian performers and teams are being successful.  At the Eurovision Song Contest in Italy, a few weeks ago, Ukraine came first after the viewers vote putting the U.K.’s entrant Sam Ryder, into second place which was a marvellous result compared to previous years.  However, it was great to see the support for Ukraine.   This week Ukraine was in the Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup and beat Scotland so it will be interesting to see how they play on Sunday against Wales.  Good luck to Ukraine as they are having to deal with so much happening in their country at home.

I am looking forward to meeting some of you on Friday 10th June when I will be attending SI Durham’s Platinum Jubilee Dinner at Ramside Hall.  I also hope to see a number of you at my President’s event on Saturday 25th June at the Auctioneer in Carlisle.  It will be wonderful to have our first face-to-face Regional gathering since the start of lock down.  Our last face-to face Regional Council Meeting was held on 23rd November 2019 although we should have met at the Auctioneer on 21st March 2020 and it had to be cancelled.

Take care and look after yourselves.  I hope that you are enjoying the Platinum Jubilee weekend.  I am looking forward to a[ending a Street Party on Friday. Best wishes 

Pam     –  your Regional President

Editor  –  thank you President Pam for this message.   Other news from the clubs is slowly coming in so we intend to continue this Regional Newsletter on the planned monthly basis with the next edition due on Sunday 3rd July.

S.I. Darlington  have been out and about with a club activity to support ‘WaterAid’.  They report:

On Saturday 14th May, Darlington Soroptimists had a stand in the Market (see photograph below) to raise money for WaterAid.  The collection box was our Golden Loo.   The idea was spo[ed on Facebook on SI Barnstable & District’s page,  so we contacted them for advice. Following their tips, a very small team applied two coats of primer ( after a Soroptimister had sanded the whole thing down ),  sprayed it with gold paint, and added lacquer.   The loo, which was donated by Barbara’s plumber, who had just removed it from a house where it was surplus to requirements,  looked splendid in the sunshine.  Between 9.0am and 3.0pm a total of nine club members were on duty, following an agreed rota.   One of the first to visit us was a man who complained that he had to pay water rates,  but others were more interested in the work of WaterAid and were happy to take away information leaflets, WaterAid pens, badges and stickers.  (Children enjoyed choosing stickers of their favourite colour).  Darlington’s Mayor once again supported a Soroptimist project and posted several photographs on Facebook.

Our sweetest visitor was little Edward, who was in town with his Dad.  (see photograph above  –  taken with parental permission )  His nursery school had lent him Eddy the Teddy for the weekend and he was supposed to give the bear some adventures.  The chance to sit on the Golden Loo could not be missed !

By Saturday evening we had raised nearly £159 and this was increased by subsequent donations from friends who had not been in town to admire the loo.  The final amount which was sent to WaterAid came to £190.     What we learned from the exercise is that fewer and fewer people are carrying cash these days.  It certainly affected our takings.  So how can we use the Golden Loo in future ?  All suggestions are welcome !

Other news from S.I. Darlington is that they have produced a new recruitment leaflet and are giving them out in the fervent hope of attracting new members.  See photograph above.

S.I.Middlesbrough recently ran a fundraising event idea whereby members and friends were invited to ‘buy’ a date from the calendar.  The winning date, which was drawn at their AGM, belonged to Suzanne Fletcher, who is a prominent member of Tees Valley of Sanctuary,  a community organisation which promotes a culture of welcome for refugees.  Susanne is also at the forefront of the campaign to close Hassockfield, an immigration detention centre near onset which campaigners describe as a place of misery and injustice for the women who are housed there.  Suzanne is involved with the regular vigils and protests which take place outside the centre.   As soon as she was informed of her win,  Suzanne pledged to donate her £50 prize money to the “No to Hassockfield” Campaign saying :  “People should be treated with dignity and be able to live in a community of love and respect for each other and for our environment.  It’s about justice and fairness.”   

Vigils are planned for 5 Junet;  3 July;  7 August; and 4 September  but any reader wishing to have more information about the campaign can contact  Suzanne at  :


Tree Planting goes wild !   S.I. Tynedale members were joined by Karen Alexander ( our Regional Programme Action Chair )  on Saturday 28th May when they met at the small holding out in the wilds of Northumberland which is being created by the West End Women and Girls Centre with on-site development worker Jill Heslop.    S.I.Tynedale had sponsored 10 trees which they put great efforts into planting by actually digging the holes ( no mean feat in rural meadow fields !)  The team of planters included their founder member Lesley Saxon ( and her Soroptimister Michael who actually did the digging for her ),  Sue McArdle their Cub Secretary who had also applied for and got the grant of £500 from the Greggs Foundation for this very effective organisation for women and girls,   Jane Dixon ( her husband Chris did the digging for her as she broke her wrist recently and cannot exert so much pressure on it ) and Jo Chexal (Club PA Lead).  See the photogram below which shows the rural environment and some of the planters  :-

Karen had sponsored an Oak Tree which was a Christmas present for her granddaughter Evalyn and as they planted it they all hoped to revisit it over the years to come to see it grow as she herself will grow.  Karen’s daughter Emily stencilled Evalyn’s name and the date of planting onto a plaque and it was hung on the tree.   Karen adds  “we stayed a while and played with the lambs and ducklings  –  it’s a beautiful place and I can appreciate how people will very much value spending time there to help in their recovery  “.

The photograph below shows Evalyn’s tree  – with Development Worker Jill Heslop in the background.

Editor :  

The recent very wet weather has delayed further planting by S.I.Newcastle upon Tyne who hope to visit in the near future to plant their 10 trees.   Another complication was the supply of zinc  –   who knew that much of the world’s zinc production comes from Ukraine ?   There have been delays while the zinc could be obtained to manufacture the very necessary deer proof fencing before tree planting could begin.  Jill had temporarily heeled in the young trees to a  sheltered area before their final planting could be undertaken.

S.I. Newcastle upon Tyne  have entered a new phase of club life with a change in the way in which they organise their meetings.  They have agreed to continue all club official meetings on Zoom for the next year.  This has allowed several members who could not a[end face-toface meetings to not only tune in every month but also take a very active role in the club’s organisation.  Each of the Club Officers this year has a ‘supporter’ who acts as a co-worker and they are commi[ed to succession planning and the active involvement of every club member.   On the second meeting each month, there will be a social face-to-face meet-up for a meal and fellowship.  The first of these social occasions was a lunch at Bradley Gardens near Crawcrook and Wylam where the new club Joint Presidents had their photographs taken.

The photograph below (taken on 24th May ) shows the new Joint Club Presidents Christine Tomkins ( who was also last year’s President on the right ) and Margaret Ayton on the leb ( against the backdrop of a wonderful Viburnum in full flower !).

The last contribution comes from S.I.Carlisle  who report that since the intensive Care Unit at Carlisle Infirmary were delighted with the kni[ed hearts donation and were keen to have more,  a second supply is almost ready and another ‘heap of hearts’ will be delivered soon.


One of the long standing members of S.I.Carlisle is Kathleeen Harris who has been attending hospital for some investigating tests recently.  While lying still and trying to distract herself from the noisy process, she thought through and later wrote these reflections on her life and as a Soroptimist.  

“Lately I have been reflecting and remembering what the Carlisle Soroptimist Cub was like when I became a member in 1975.  We had such a lot of inspirational women and membership was close to 50.  Is it our present ways with reliance on technology that prevents young women wanting to join us.  I understand that the lifestyle is very different from 40 years ago,  and there are so many other things that modern women can do, but with the exception of the few, they don’t want to be part of a Soroptimist club.  I know that some clubs are doing really well with recruitment and I applaud them, but they are in the minority.  When I tell anyone that I am a member of Carlisle Soroptimists they inevitably say ‘what’s that’.

Thinking about things made me reflect upon my childhood memories of Christmas and how different it is today,  and what children expect for their presents.  I know that we should be looking forward to summer and not Christmas but sometimes certain thoughts just will not leave.  I think most of my friends know that I come from a large family of ten.  Eight girls and two boys,  I was the ninth child.  We always looked forward to Christmas and the anticipated socks.  Not the fancy social Christmas socks that you can now buy but our normal school stockings that usually came just below the knee.  I think we always knew it would be more or less the same things every year but it didn’t diminish our excitement.  There was always an orange and apple also pencils, balloons and perhaps a bag of sweets or a small chocolate bar, and always a pair of white ankle socks to wear on the day.  Sometimes my older sisters would play a trick on their young siblings, they would fill our socks with ashes from the previous night’s fire making my younger sister and myself believe that Father Christmas had thought we had not behaved well enough to receive any gibs.  That was cruel but we were soon all laughing again.

I do sometimes wonder how my parents managed with so many children.  My father served in both World Wars and was away during most of the Second World War leaving my mother at that time with nine children.  I think that my mother had an obsession with oranges, which you couldn’t get during the war.  When we were all employed in various jobs she insisted that we all ate half or a quarter of an orange before leaving for work.  She would cut up the oranges, place a piece on saucers, line them on the top of the sideboard and whether we liked it or not we had to eat that orange as part of our breakfast.  I can still hear my mother saying ‘its good for you’.

Just to get back to Soroptimists my mother would have been so proud that I had been invited to join S.I.Carlisle in 1975.  Unfortunately she died just before that in 1974,  but my invite came because I was a business women.  My mother would never had have the opportunity to become a member because although she was very clever, she was simply a housewife.  What a big mistake our movement made by thinking women like her were not capable of contributing to our work.  Who kept the country running during the wars,  it was our brave mothers and perhaps if their influence had carried on we would not be in the position we are today with depleted numbers.  Thank goodness that we can now offer membership to any woman who would like to help us with our work of enabling girls to reach their full potential.

Now that we are all learning to live with the pandemic, I hope we can start to look forward to a more positive outlook and that Soroptimists will still be able to help and lighten any needy places.”

EDITOR :  Thank you Kathleen for this reminiscing over so many years as a member.  We all hope that it helped you through a stressful time and that the test results produced good news.  Does any other member have some thoughts that might be useful to add to our Regional History notes ?


SINE’s next Regional Coffee Gathering is on Zoom on next Saturday 11 June at 10.30am for about an hour.  To join us please email Margaret Ayton for a link:

Please do remember to sign up to a[end President Pam’s event in Carlisle on

Saturday 25 June.    Not long now before we have this chance to meet as a region face-to face once again.     

With every best wish that all members are keeping well and looking forward.  Please keep the items for this Newsletter coming :  Next edition on Sunday 3rd July

In friendship,   your Editor       –    Christine