The September meeting was an opportunity for members to make short presentations of their personal memories which illustrated how society has changed over the last 60 years. The members’ experiences covered a wide range of topics.
The topics ranged from memories of meeting well-known people, such as the Duke of Edinburgh, George Carey, then Archbishop of Canterbury and Betty Boothroyd, then Speaker of the House of Commons to a very personal memory connected to the Lord Mayor of London’s Show.
In 1957 the Lord Mayor of London sponsored an essay competition linked to his Show. As a young girl, one of the members won a prize in this competition and this involved attending the Mansion House in London for a tour of the building and the presentation of the prize. The new dress and jacket bought for the occasion was probably as memorable as the tour and presentation.
Another memory revealed the changes in social attitudes. As a young girl, a member was taken on as a trainee secretary at a Leicester hotel in the early 1950s but was disappointed to find she was more a general ‘dogsbody’. Once, while covering the hotel reception she was forced to tell a black US serviceman that the hotel was full although there were plenty of rooms available. Disgusted by this blatant racism and the lack of proper training, her hotel career ended shortly afterwards.
The 1980s saw the justice system attempting to become more representative by widening the range of people from which magistrates were drawn. One member, in the nursing profession, was recruited to be a magistrate in the late 1980s. She described the training and the strict rules which governed magistrates’ behaviour, but she brought a new perspective to that of the traditional magistrates. The role had its perks - as a representative of Leicestershire magistrates she was a guest at a Royal Garden Party.
There was also admiration for craftsmanship. A member, while converting an old building in Grantham had to remove a large wooden beam some 18” by 15” by 14 feet long and replace it with a steel beam. The wooden beam had to be cut up to ease disposal but wherever this was attempted a hard obstruction was encountered. After several attempts a detailed examination was made. A 3” iron bar had been inserted through the centre of the beam along its whole length. The wonder was how the precise operation had been accomplished in the days before power tools and lasers.
The final talk told the story of ‘Lampy’, believed to be the oldest garden gnome in England. In the mid 19th century Charles Isham of Lamport Hall imported the small statues from Nuremberg in Germany, where it is believed the miners used them as a talisman while working in the mines. Charles Isham built a rockery in the mid 19th century at Lamport Hall to accommodate all his gnomes and they became his personal obsession. This obsession was not shared by his daughters and after their father’s death they took great delight in shooting and destroying all the gnomes in the rockery. All that is except ‘Lampy’. This gnome was found at Lamport in the 1940s and is now carefully preserved. ‘Lampy’ is thought to be the originator of the craze for garden gnomes in British gardens.