Southend celebrates 90 years of ‘Rural’ success

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A year after the centenary celebrations of Scottish Women’s Institutes (SWI) across the country, one Kintyre faction is celebrating its 90th birthday.

Southend Rural member Elizabeth Semple says the group is looking back at 90 very successful years with gratitude to the millions of women who, down the years, kept the organisation safe.

Mrs Semple told the Courier the aims of the organisation, which was originally named Scottish Women’s Rural Institutes (SWRI), include advancing the education and training of its members in home skills, welfare and citizenship.

She said it is also committed to preserving the traditions of rural Scotland and to working for international cooperation and understanding among women.

The original SWRI badge was designed by Glamis institute in 1917 and approved by delegates to the second Annual National Conference in 1919. It is based on the Luckenbooth brooch or Witch Heart, the crown of which usually has five jewels, but the SWRI’s design has four, with its initials inset in them.

The organisation’s motto ‘For home and country’ is set within the heart, which Mrs Semple says was used as a love token in Mary, Queen of Scots’ time.

She added: ‘The badge represents love, friendship and power for good, and the white heart stands for purity.

‘The motto speaks of loyalty to maintaining the high standards we, as a Rural, still maintain today.’

The Oban Times headlined a report, on May 7, 1964, of the organisation’s Federation Show, held in Campbeltown’s Victoria Hall: ‘Shield won by Southend for second year running.’

At the time, Southend had 112 members and scored 112 points.
Bellochantuy had 39 members and scored 92 points and Strachur scored 70 points.

The competition was judged by a Miss Nettleworth, who sampled 150 Florence cakes, 200 Dundee cakes and 250 water and walnut loaves, as well as 50 cold, savoury dishes.

Mrs Semple said: ‘It was reported she started judging at 9.30am and finished at 2.30pm and was unable to attend the official lunch, which I think wasn’t too surprising.

‘She probably missed her dinner as well!’

Mrs Semple says that although the Rural lost some of its identity to ‘PR people’ when it officially changed from SWRI to SWI, it has come a long way and members still attend as much as ever.

She said: ‘At the moment we are in very safe hands and enjoy excellent meetings each month, with at least two of them being masterclass standard.’

The group recently held its AGM in the ‘world famous’ Muneroy Tearoom where president Jean Ives recalled the year’s successes, including a visit to MACC, talks by Westwards vet Dominic Sharkey and photographer
Raymond Hosie, and a fantastic patchwork/quilting demonstration by Marjory McKinven.

The annual bulb show was a taster of the Southend ladies’ crafting talents which was replicated at the Argyll Federation Show held in Hunter Quay in Dunoon.

There were many entries from all over Kintyre and Argyll but Mary Cameron’s celebration cake won best item in one of the group entries and Moyra Jane Paterson’s rhubarb and ginger jam was deemed best in Argyll and is going on to the Scottish final in Edinburgh.

After a ‘beautiful’ meal at Muneroy, served by Frances and Ruth, the president presented prizes for the most points in the winter competitions to: 1 Moyra Jane Paterson, 2 Alison Eynon, 3 Fiona Rowland. The prize for most points at the Federation Show went to Jen Ronald.

Voting took place for new committee members as Mairi McBrayne, Christine Jardine and Mary Cameron are all standing down.

They were thanked for all their hard work and commitment over the last three years.

The group will hold a 90th birthday celebration, including a buffet and entertainment, on Monday night at 7.30pm, in Dunaverty Hall, to which all members past and present are welcome.

‘Long may the Rural, this grand old lady who has given so much to us all in opportunities we couldn’t hope to aspire to without her, continue for many more years,’ added Mrs Semple.

‘Raise your glasses on Monday, ladies – to the Rural, long may she continue to be our inspiration and hope for the future.’