The closure of my WI went smoothly though not without sadness. Everyone put on a brave face, each person determined to make the final meeting one to remember. Why were we closing? Because membership had fallen and the cost of running the hall was prohibitive. If the money didn’t come in we couldn’t meet the bills.
The speaker we booked for the day was well known to us, a genuinely nice lady with a terrific sense of humour. We had been joined by the local vicar who came to give a blessing … WHAT, the speaker cried, A MAN? Well, it was the last day so distractions were welcome. Actually, the vicar enjoyed himself, and he laughed with the rest of us when the speaker got going, particularly when her delivery went near the mark. I think Vicar laughed louder than anyone at those times.
Ladies had made special cakes for the occasion; the vicar enjoyed those and his compliments were like a healing balm on a difficult day.
After the visitors went home we spent some time planning our own future. We didn’t want to give up WI so some of us decided to join one of the other institutes that meet in our hall. They used to pay rent to us for the hire of the hall so their financial affairs weren’t affecting their use of it. As owners of the hall my institute bore the brunt and the responsibility was unbearable.
But, what to do about the hall itself? The deeds were prohibitive in that we had never been able to hire out the hall to any association that wasn’t WI, cub scouts or girl brownies. You see the limitations! If we had been able to we could have hired out the hall and made a profit. Oh well, these things happen, or perhaps I should say ‘don’t happen’.
The hall being on church ground, it seemed to us that the logical conclusion would be to ask the church if they wanted it. We put it to the vicar and church trustees – who were most definitely interested. However, they needed to consult solicitors before they could agree to taking it on. The wait for news seemed interminable yet it was only a couple of months. Three of us, who had been acting trustees of our hall (on the grounds that no-one else would do it) went by appointment to receive the news.
It was good news, the church would take it on, pay all bills, and allow our neighbouring institutes to continue holding meetings. We agreed a date and that was that. Without further ado, my colleagues planned when to sort all the paperwork for archiving, a big job and one I never expected to do. That in itself will bring back huge memories of times gone by as records go back quite a number of years, with photographs to prove it. The hall has been in existence, or rather it was presented to my WI in 1932 and I don’t think anything has ever been thrown away.
In the meantime, a number of us joined the morning institute and were welcomed with open arms – literally. They are feeling relief at having acquired more members since their membership had fallen and they were on the verge of thinking they would have to close.
So it's off with the old and on with the new. One thing is certain, I will never join another committee or take on any official jobs. My colleagues are younger than me by many years so it will be my pleasure to leave it all to them.