The following article was taken from the:
Pulman’s Weekly News: Tuesday January 13th 1948.
“Umbourne Has a Hall”.
Women’s Institute Enterprise.
Opening ceremony by Lady Carew Pole.
Saturday was a great day for the Umbourne Women’s Institute, for it marked the opening by Lady Carew Pole of their new hall, erected on land belonging to the Shute estate at Painters Cross, Shute Marsh. From the end of the Sixteenth Century until a few years ago, the Pole family lived at Shute House, now used as a girls’ school.
In this remote part of Shute village, an Institute of just over 40 members has sprung up. They were joined by Institute members from Axminster, Seaton, Colyton, Musbury, Beer, Branscombe, Northleigh and Widworthy, and the hall was filled. An American Army hut at Dunkeswell, the building was purchased by the Institute for £135. It has been skilfully adapted for its new purpose, windows having been put in, cloakroom and kitchen accommodation provided and lighting installed, bringing the total cost with erection to at least £300. Gifts towards its furnishing include a piano and chairs.
After the vicar of Shute (Rev. Alan Joslin) had asked for God’s blessing on the work of the Institute in its new home, an address was given by Mr St. John Ervine, the dramatist and novelist.
The President (Miss Kinnings) said thanks were due to the Shute estate for allowing them to erect the hall there, and to Mr Maeer (the tenant) for generously suggesting it. They had raised £135 ready to buy a hut and their members had risen well to the occasion. Every original member lent money, just hoping some day they might get it back. They had a wonderful promise from Mrs Selway, a promise to lend the amount they were still short, free of interest. This gave them a safe and happy feeling, able to look forward without an undue burden of debt. They were deeply touched when on Wednesday, from her sick bed, Mrs Selway gave the Treasurer (Mrs. Train) a cheque for £100. Shute had been without a meeting place. It was their earnest wish that the Hall might be well used for all that made for the good and happiness of the neighbourhood.
“I think that the fact that we are in this hall is a proof, if any were needed, of the undauntable spirit of women” said Mr St. John Ervine. ” Nothing made a nation except the spirit of the people. If the spirit was poor, paltry and cheap, then the nation would be poor, paltry and cheap. But if the spirit of the people was high and noble, then the spirit of the whole nation would be high and noble. On you, and you alone, depends the character of your country” he declared. ” No gifts from America, no gifts from the Government, no gifts from anybody, will make you fine men and women. It is what you have inside you that matters”
He spoke of children demoralised by lazy parents who would not take the trouble to bring them up properly, and suggested that that was a matter that an organisation like this had to consider profoundly. ” You are the trainers and guardians of the young, the people who will one day carry on this country,” he said. “If you bring them up badly, with extravagant notions, with false views of life, then you will do your country infinite harm. When I was a child – and this is true of most of you -we made our own entertainment. Nowadays it is made for them. The child does not amuse itself; somebody is spending time amusing it. People actually teach chidlren how to play nowadays. Nobody ever taught me how to play. I knew. There was no period of the year that I had not some sort of game that I could play – and I did not need to buy it. Nobody told us when we should start playing marbles, flying kites, spinning tops or trundling hoops. We knew, and it kept us going. Nowadays you will find brats squawking all over the place: ‘I don’t know what to do’. The average child today gets its entertainment from the picture house, where it is seeing people living lives that no human being ever lives or ought to live – vague women lolling about on expensive sofas while brilliantined dagos kiss their hands, and they grow up in the belief that that is the right way to live. It is a terrible come-down when you have to wash the dishes after that – at least they think it is”
Centre of decent thought
He wanted them to think of that hall as the centre of decent thought in that community; that in that place there would be people trying not only to think for themselves but to induce the young to grow up with a decent outlook on life. He wanted them also to believe that women had a very important function in life to perform outside their homes. More and more women were coming into the government of the community. Men had been trying for a long time to keep them out of it. The people most determined to keep women out of local government or any kind of government, were the stupidest people in the community. There were men in the Rural Council of Axminster whose heads were made of solid bone, and they were the most determined people to keep women out of local government. He urged them to get women on as many of the Housing Committees in Devon as possible.
The nation that grew up in the doctrine that it need not do anything for itself, but must just sit down and wait for other people to do things for it, was not only a dead nation, but a damned nation. This nation, like any other great nation, had reached its high position in the world through the spirit and strength of its people, and through the determination of its people to do things for themselves. Every nation in the world that had collpased, had collapsed because its people would no longer do things for themselves. That, he suggested, was the great evil of our day. It was people like them, meeting in a Society like the Women’s Institute, who would oppose that evil, and, if they were suffuciently determined, overcome it.
Lady Carew Pole, declaring the Hall open, said she felt that no praise was sufficient for the officials and members of the Institute. She congratulated all who had helped towards erecting the Hall, which would mean so much not only to themselves, but also the next generation. In that hall they could have their amusements, their meetings and discussions. So much msiunderstanding was due to not having discussions and hearing all points of view. In getting the hall erected, they had done a big thing. In these days, when there was so much red tape surrounding their daily lives, to be able to cut through it, as they had done, was indeed a great achievement.
Don’t forget, your country at the moment is at stake,” she said,”and we have as individuals to do our bit so that we shall be able to carry on and be the first country, as we always have been, in the world, which has only been achieved by the individual exertions of all our predecessors.”
A vote of thanks to Mr St. John Ervine was proposed by Mrs. Greenhalge (hon. secretary) and seconded by Mrs. Sydenham (vice-president). Lady Carew Pole was thanked by Mrs Train (hon. treasurer), seconded by Mrs. Maeer ( a Committe member).
Greetings from the Devon Federation of Women’s Institutes were brought by Miss Gosney, vice-chairman of the County Executive.