The Ladies Of Penallt

Far from fading into the deep recesses of the rebuilt Pelham Hall, Penallt’s branch of the Women’s Institute made a thankful transfer from the old hall and ever since has enjoyed monthly meetings in warmth and comfort. The W.I. has long been more about fun and friendship than jam and Jerusalem and the ladies of Penallt have in the process developed an outlook which embraces both local interests and national and world events. This sees them carrying out their essentially W.I. programmes and activities and at the same time becoming involved in village occasions, sponsoring two open meetings every year as “community” events and undertaking annual village “clean up” days.

Their speakers have covered cookery, historical research, local archaeology, textiles, and resuscitation techniques. They have shown how to help wild life around the village, more about gardening and even how to deal with super-intelligent rabbits. Some (speakers not rabbits) have travelled the world from our own shores to Afghanistan, Mongolia, Beijing and from the snowy wastes of Finland down to Tierra del Fuego. Members have tried line-dancing; they have gone home thoroughly sticky from eating the medieval version of toast and honey: they have been inspired to write poems (alright then, verse) and stories.

More seriously, they have discussed fallen farm stock, patenting life forms, the traffic in women and children and addiction caused by prescriptive drugs. They do not hesitate to make their views known where they think this would help. They have been involved in wider issues such as supporting a water bore-hole project and an orphanage in Zimbabwe and responded to pleas for help from women in one of the world’s trouble spots – in September 2002, for example, members were exhorted to “bring their knickers to the next meeting” to provide basic essentials of underwear and toiletries taken for granted here but which for those needing help had become so scarce that they were luxuries.

Members have travelled around too – a high-light in 2003 was the trip to Highgrove organised by Prue Evill. They have explored their own locality through organised walks (ending with supper at the Bush) learning more of the history of the area and its families. One of the fruits of these interests hangs in the Pelham Hall – a “tapestry” completed by members in time for the millennium celebrations depicting the village of Penallt, its landmarks, elements of the farming year and the recreational facilities of the area.

Illustration: Anne Stratton

Members understandably boast that a survey of Women’s Institutes in the U.K. told them what they already know – they are special. In fact, they have a higher proportion of members in full or part-time work and their average age is lower! The old image has been banished as members of Penallt W.I. combine the best of the old with a modern profile for modern woman.” (We are indebted to Trish Hayward, Penallt WI. Secretary for this felicitous review. Ed)

[from: Penallt Revisited]