W.I. Badge from the Author’s collection
Devoran Village Hall and Devoran W.I.
2015 is the 100th anniversary of the Women’s Institute (new slogan: Inspiring Women), founded in the UK during the First World War in 1915.
Devoran Women’s Institute is sadly no more, though the WI survives at nearby Point and Penpol and a Devoran Ladies Club still meets at the Parish Centre.
Viv Acton and Derek Carter’s book Operation Cornwall 1940-1944 (Landfall, 1994, out of print) and its successor on 1945 and beyond, Cornish War and Peace (Landfall, 1995, also out of print) are well worth tracking down for the wealth of information on Cornwall in wartime.
There are a few delightful vignettes of life in Devoran Village Hall, many based on the memories of Devoran resident the late Betty Phillips.
The W.I. had an important national role of fruit preservation in the days of food rationing, as Betty Phillips of Devoran remembers (p.87):
“picking pram loads of blackberries and collecting and cleaning jars for the W.I’s Preservation Centre set up in the Village Hall to make jam from the surplus fruit.”
The Falmouth WI branch recorded 630 lbs jam collected and made in 1941, 675 lbs in 1942. There are still plentiful blackberries for the picking and still much foraging for sloes, apples and blackberries along the Quay and paths near the War Memorial recreation ground!
The Devoran Village Hall was created in the 1920s from the original Redruth and Chasewater Railway workshops and was apparently informally segregated into a men and women’s end in its early days. Acton and Carter record on p.99 the memory (probably Christmas 1942 or 1943) of how:
“one young girl who attended the Christmas social of the Devoran Women’s Institute being held in the Village Hall was watching the members sedately dancing, when the doorway was suddenly filled with smiling figures attracted by the sound of the small band. Within seconds, the ladies found themselves being whirled around the floor by their American partners in a most exciting way. Soon the visitors were teaching the local girls the extrovert skills of jitterbugging, much to their delight.”
The American GI’s had obviously arrived locally!
Looking through Cornish newspapers through Find My Past’s British Newspaper Arcive, there is a wealth of interesting snippets of wartime life of how the women of Devoran passed leisure time and supported the war effort through social events, fundraising and adult education. It also reveals a few recurring names of busy women!
The earliest record I can find of WI activity is in October 1920 (West Briton, 14 October 1920) witch an established pattern of talks, music and social elements:
Mr W.T. Lawrence KC gave an interesting lecture “Margaret Godolphin and Foott”. Miss Alice Williams presided over a crowded audience and a solo was rendered by Mrs. Parkin.
Another 1920 meeting had a talk by Mrs Russ Parker on “Child Welfare”. This pattern continued throughout the 1920s and 1930s into the Outbreak of war.
W.I. News Devoran, Western Morning News Friday October 4th 1940
The house to house collection in aid of ‘Cornish Blind’ resulted in – Devoran Village (Misses F.M. Bennett and L. Miller, £2, 8 shillings, Devoran Lane and Street (Mesdames A. Annear and A.M.Pascoe, £3, 6 shillings), Point (Mesdames E. Watts and T. Lavin, £1, 16 shillings), Carnon Downs and District (Misses P. Passmore and B. King, £1, 4 shillings) and Carnon Gate (Miss A. A. Webber, 7 shillings)
Western Morning News 17 April 1940
Miss M.P. Tyacke presided, had a lecture on family wartime menus by Miss Lloyd Davies.
Western Morning News 22 April 1940
(also in The Cornishman 25 April 1940)
W.I. Dramatic Society “Mirror to Elizabeth” by Devoran W.I. Spring Council [meeting] Cornwall Federation W.I. on Saturday
Devoran W.I. is 21
Western Morning News 13 May 1940
“The Village Hall was decorated with movement’s colours of red, yellow and green … [cake] cut by Miss Alice Williams, one of the Institute’s First Members …”
So Devoran W.I. must have been formed around May 1919?
Western Morning News 23 July 1940
Out of Door Meeting was held at Devoran House by permission of Revd. and Mrs A.S. Rashleigh. Miss M.P. Tyacke presided. Games, folk dancing and community singing arranged.
Devoran W.I. Dramatic Society with Feock Amateur [Dramatic] Society enjoyed a talk by Miss M. Kelly, British Drama League on “How to Make Your Own Plays”
Western Morning News 26 September 1940
Western Morning News 14 October 1940
Lecture on Perran Foundry given by Mr Tregoning Hopper
Western Morning News 20 January 1941
Talk on Trinidad was given by Mrs. ffrench-Constant. Competition arranged by Miss. J, Sweet was won by Miss L. Nicholls.
Western Morning News, 23 May 1914
The Secretary Mrs E.T. Dillon on behalf of members presented Mrs John Dingle with a teaset on occasion of her recent marriage.
Misses M. Smith and Fry (Truro) spoke on the work done by the R.C.I. Linen League. Miss Smith opened the members’ Linen LeagueBox which contained £9 / 2 shillings / 6 d and the proceeds of the gift stall realised £2 / 2 shillings making a total of £11 / 4 shillings / 6 d.
Western Morning News June 1941
Falmouth Group met at Devoran. Members came form Mabe, Mylor, Falmouth Penryn and Ponsanooth.
Mrs.G.T.Langdon (Devoran) presided … a Talk on Indian Women and children was given by Mrs. Carey Morgan. Penryn W.I. would entertain the next group [meeting] in September.
Research note: Mrs G.T. Langdon was also involved as Group Secretary of the Devoran National Savings Group and the Cornishman (20 May 1940) records the birth of a daughter to “Mary, wife of G.T. Langdon”.
Devoran W.I. frequently did well as winners in the Cornwall Music Festival, regaining the Shilson Shield, as reported in the Western Morning News on 4th July 1942.
Devoran W.I. News
Western Morning News 10 September 1941
The Secretary Mrs E.T. Dillon reported that 60 lbs of blackberry and apple jam had been made at the centre. A talk on Cornish Wild Flowers was given by Miss W. Beckett (Assistant Librarian at Falmouth)
Devoran W.I. News
“On the Home Front” page, Western Morning News 27 October 1941
Mrs.G.T. Langdon reported that 424 lbs of jam had been made. Miss G.A Lewis was appointed knotting wool representative. Mr Bridger (Feock) gave a talk on smuggling in Cornwall.
A sketch “Very Catching” was given by Mrs. E. Daniell and Miss G.A. Lewis with items by the band (Miss E. Dixon, Master L. Dixon, Miss L. Miller, Miss W.M. Bennett, Miss G.A. Lewis, and Miss J. Trenhaile).
On the same page the important news: Custard Powder Control
Custard and blancmange powders, cornflour and similar products containing starch are to be controlled soon under a Food Ministry Order. “On the Home Front” page, Western Morning News 27 October 1941.
Devoran W.I. News
Western Morning News, 25 November 1941
Mrs G.T. Langdon presided at the November meeting and talk on Music Down the Ages was given by Mr. G. Raper of Leeds University, assisted by Mr Arnold Tinney who sang various compositions to illustrate the lecturer’s remarks.
Devoran W.I. News
Western Morning News, 30 December 1941
Mrs G.T. Langdon presided at the Annual Meeting when the Hon. Sec. Mrs E.T. Dillon reported that the contributions to outside objects included the RCI [Royal Cornwall Infirmary] Linen League Fund £11 / 4 shillings and the National Institute for the Blind £15 / 5 shillings. Miss L.G. Opie (acting treasurer) announced a very successful financial year …
Miss K. Spear showed specimens of economy knitting and sewing. Officers elected President Mrs G.T. Langdon, Secretary Mrs E.T. Dillon , treasurer Miss M. Palmer. Miss M. Foreman and Mrs C.M. Shepherd were added to the Council.
Devoran W.I. News
“Western Morning News 19 March 1942
Mrs. G.T. Langdon was in the chair at the March meeting when Mrs. Alfred Martin gave a talk on “Production”. Recitations were afterwards given by Miss Miller and Miss G.A. Lewis at the piano.
Meanwhile on the same page of other West Country W.I. news … “in Buckland Monachorum … Mrs Beer demonstrated the making of camouflage nets.”
Devoran W.I. Annual Collection
Western Morning News 19 March 1942
Devoran W.I. annual collection and whist drive in aid of the British Empire Cancer Campaign Fund, £18 / 5 shillings.
Western Morning News, 22 September 1942.
At the September meeting a talk was given on “wartime cooking” by Miss Bullocke, who was thanked by Mrs. Dunn and Miss Pellow. The social half-hour included tea and an intelligence test arranged by Mrs. Head and Miss Pellow.
Research note: This Mrs. Head may well be Marion Maud Head (later Rowe), the widow of Chief Stoker William Alfred Head, D/K52949 Royal Navy, who died aged 41 on 17 January 1942 when his ship HMS Matabele was torpedoed. See https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/devoran-second-world-war-casualties-a-to-r/
Western Morning News, 20 October 1942.
At the October 1942 meeting, Mrs. G.T. Langdon presiding, Corporal D. Russell spoke on “Conditions in the ATS” and Miss V. Ross-Crawford on “Ceylon”.
During the social half-hour there was an entertainment of solos by Mrs. E.D. Buckingham; recitation Mrs Richards, and pianoforte duet, Mrs. Dunn and Miss Allen.
Western Morning News, 23 January 1943.
Miss M.P. Tyacke presided at the January 1943 meeting, when Mrs. E.T. Dillon (Hon. Sec.) reported that the proceeds from the recent gift stall in aid of the Prisoner of War fund realised £1 6 shillings and 6d.
An M.O.I [Ministry of Information] film dealing with “incendiary bombs” followed. The attendance included members of the WVS, Red Cross detachments, Home Guard and ARP personnel.
Research note: Various MOI films dealt with this subject including short comic MOI 1942 film by Will Hay, Go To Blazes http://www.screenonline.org.uk/film/id/1423872/index.html and a Pathe Newsreel equivalent from 1940: http://www.britishpathe.com/video/how-you-can-deal-with-incendiary-bombs
Devoran Also further supported Prisoners of War through a penny a week fund, totalled £5, 17 shillings and 8d for April 1943, as reported in the Western Morning News on 11 May 1943.
Research note: Interesting mention of Devoran Home Guard. A few weeks later, the Western Morning News of 10 February 1943 reported that:
“Members of the Home Guard held a Whist Drive in the Devoran Village Hall in aid of Home Guard funds, proceeds £3, 4 shillings.”
Western Morning News, 23 February 1943.
Miss M.P. Tyacke presided [at the February 1943 meeting], Miss Collier was appointed delegate to attend the Spring Council meeting.
A talk on “English Humour and why do we laugh” by Mr. T.S. Atlee, Perranwell. Miss Joyce Irenhaile accompanied during the social half hour.
Research note: T.S. Atlee of Perranwell may well be Thomas Attlee, brother of the labour leader Clement Attlee who became Prime Minister in the 1945 Labour landslide election. Tom S. Attlee lived at Tullimaar on the Truro-Falmouth roads, one of its many notable inhabitants. As the BBC reported on 15 May 2014, Tom Attlee was a Conscientious Objector in WW1 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-27404266
At the March 1943 meeting Miss Truscott (Falmouth) gave a talk on “Child Welfare” and Mrs. J. Connor spoke on “Vegetarian Dishes”. A competition “Make Do and Mend” judged by Mesdames Collyer and Harvie, was won by Mrs R.T. Dingle and the Misses J. Dingle and Allen. Western Morning News, 25 March 1943.
Devoran W.I. News
The Annual effort for the British Empire Cancer Campaign resulted in House to House collection £11, 13 shillings and 10d. Donation from Devoran Dance Committee £5. Cake competition (Mrs E.T. Dillon) £2, 8 shillings. Sales of cakes 13 shillings, 6d. Whist Drive £3, 1 shillings and 9d. Donations 9 shillings, 11d. Refreshments £1, 2 shillings. Lightning Drive, 8 shillings. As a result £24 will be forwarded to the Fund. Mrs. E.T. Dillon made the arrangements. Taken from the Western Morning News, 8 May 1943.
Devoran W.I. News
Miss Tyacke (president) took the chair at the October 1943 meeting. An illustrated talk on “Posture and Gait” was given by Mr. Stuart Brown of Falmouth.
A physical training demonstration was provided by seven little girls. A photograph companion 1. Mrs. T. Latin. 2. Miss L.G. Opie and Mrs E.T. Dillon (tied). Taken from Western Morning News, 26 October 1943
Devoran W.I. News in 1944 and 1945 becomes more scarce (possibly as wartime newspapers reduced in size?) No doubt they continued to meet as actively and fundraiser throughout the rest of the war and on through postwar austerity.
Occasional glimpses of late wartime activities occur. Devoran W.I. Dramatic Society presented in heats for a national drama competition the short play “White Queen, Red Queen” by playwright T.B. Morris. The cast was V. Pellow, M. Head (whose Royal Navy husband had been lost in 1939) , M. Kernick, V. Hitchens, J. Jennings, M. Langdon, G. Lewis, L. Miller, C. Pellow. Producer: Miss M.P. Tyacke.