The Romany Society Weekend in Cumbria October 2003
From Romany Magazine, the Society’s Journal 2003. By Lynn Shelley:
Well, yet another Romany Society weekend has passed, and although I have enjoyed each one, this year’s was truly special.
Phil and I had arrived at the Edenhall Country Hotel a day earlier than other members, as he wanted to be sure everything was in order. During the late afternoon of Friday our friends began to assemble. In most cases it was a full year since we had last met, and all the Romany gossip had to be aired before freshening-up for dinner!
Our meal was later than usual, due to the delayed arrival of our Patron, Terry Waite, who does seem to have his share of problems with train journeys. Despite his arrival that morning from the USA (he hadn’t slept in a bed since Wednesday!), Terry was in fine form, showing no obvious signs of the inevitable jetlag.
Saturday morning saw us travelling in convoy to Glassonby Methodist Chapel for the first event of the weekend.
We were welcomed to the Chapel by the Reverend Alan Gawthorpe. Stalwart member, Arthur Kidd, who is well known for setting Romany traps for passing walkers, spoke of Romany the Minister, and his own experiences of hearing him preach at the Chapel. Phil was asked to say a few words, and he described the warmth and fellowship felt by society members; something he hadn’t experienced in other organisations.
Moving outside, Terry unveiled the bronze memorial plaque commemorating Romany’s many visits to the Chapel. He described Romany’s concern for nature, and his worry that we were not taking care of our planet, rather prophetic words written and spoken over 60 years ago.
After Terry and Phil had given press and TV interviews, we drove to Old Parks Farm to see our information board in its rightful place. Following the foot and mouth disaster of 2001, we were delighted to see farmer, and society Honorary Life Member, David Raine, whose cattle are now back.
We walked to the memorial birdbath, where Terry and Phil spoke again, and member Joyce Gelleburn described Romany’s last visit to Old Parks. Following a minutes silence flowers were laid on behalf of all members. The autumn colours we had chosen – red and gold – perfectly reflected the beautiful day and magnificent scenery.
After a superb lunch at ‘Brief Encounter,’ Langwathby, where Gordon and his staff treated us royally, it was on to Kirkoswald Primary School for a spot of tree planting!
Head Teacher, Helen Armstrong, greeted us and took us to a classroom where the children’s designs for their new wildlife area were on display.
Again under the scrutiny of the press and TV cameras, Terry told the 100, or so, people present of his time in captivity, when he longed to see a little greenery. Phil presented the Romany Society grant of £200 to the School Support Group, which will help in the funding of a bird watching hide.
Two young pupils joined Terry in planting a rowan tree to commemorate our visit, and the outline of his hand was drawn onto a block of sandstone. This will eventually be carved out and placed under the tree. He spent a considerable time, surrounded by children, chatting to them and giving autographs.
Being with the children that afternoon was very special, and for many was the highlight of a weekend packed full of significant events. Romany’s memory will surely live on if we continue with activities of this nature.
The Gala Dinner that evening was attended by a number of local members, with Guests of Honour being Arthur Kidd and Kathleen and Keith Harrison.
Our final morning together was spent in the company of the congregation at the Methodist Central Hall in Carlisle, founded by Romany in 1923.
Phil thanked Tamar Dixon for inviting him to speak. He could not have envisaged some 15 years ago, when he first became interested in Romany, the day when he might address a group of people in the very church in which Romany had preached. He read an extract from a Romany book and then handed over to Terry, who spoke movingly of his time in captivity and the importance of his childhood memories of the Romany books.
The events of the weekend concluded with Terry again unveiling a bronze plaque, this time commemorating Romany’s time at the Carlisle church.
So, what a weekend! How will we possibly follow it next year? I suspect it will be a case of ‘watch this space!’