Next meeting: Thursday February 8th at 2.00pm in Kirton and Falkenham Village Hall.
Speaker: Jane Bradburn.
Subject: Kirton of Old.
Competition: A postcard or photo of Kirton in the past.

One of the activities that has recently been added to Kirton and Falkenham WI’s programme is a ‘Knit and Natter’ get together at Sue Watts house on the third Monday of every month. Sue tells me that ‘Nattering’ takes up quite a lot of the time but along with that people are knitting ‘Fiddle Mats’ for dementia patients while Joyce is making woolly hats for premature babies. They are thinking of producing something in the poppy line to commemorate the ending of the First World War. There have been one or two other programme changes recently. The winter lunch on the 22nd of February will now take place at the Mariners, Trimley instead of the Orwell and the Suffolk Farmhouse Cheeses outing is on the 24th May instead of the 19th April. In April last year Jason Salisbury gave us a talk about his cheese-making company and, at the time, we thought it would be an excellent idea to take up his offer of a visit, so that will be something to look forward to.

Our speaker this month was Linda Sexton who came to talk to us about the WI’s involvement in the aftermath of the 1953 North Sea Floods. Linda, a member of Rushmere Evening WI, met Patricia Mann while both were studying for BA degrees at Suffolk College, courses set up in collaboration with Suffolk East Federation of WIs, and the 1953 floods formed the subject of Pat’s final dissertation. In 2012 they published a book on which they had collaborated about the floods called ‘Sisters in Adversity’. Following her graduation Linda became the archivist for the Suffolk East Federation and at Ipswich Record Office she came across a file of correspondence relating to the aftermath of the disaster and the response by WI members at the time. This is what provided material for the book and on which most of the account is based. Through her researches she discovered that the WI gave support during the calamity and continued to do so long after the rest of the country had forgotten all about it and was caught up in the summer celebrations surrounding the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.

The 1953 flood was a major event which took place on the night of Saturday 31st January and the morning of Sunday 1st of February. A combination of a high spring tide and a severe tempest over the North Sea caused an unprecedented storm surge bringing water levels of 18 feet above mean sea level in some locations. Areas mainly affected were the Netherlands, Belgium, Scotland and England. 1,836 people were killed in the Netherlands and 307 in England, 41 of those in Felixstowe. In Suffolk the local WIs rose to the challenge and invited people to sent in supplies for those in low-lying areas who had survived but who had lost everything. Parcels soon began to arrive, 80 delivered by Carter Patterson alone, and were distributed. It was not just along the coast that problems occurred as rivers had also flooded and the salt water contaminated farmland. Contributions began to arrive from farther afield, from such places as Ireland, Denmark, Switzerland, the USA, New Zealand and Australia, and were allocated according to need by the East and West Federations. In fact the Queensland Country-women’s Association sent 5 gallon drums of honey – 10 of them. There was a certain amount of difficulty in trying to decide what to do with all this honey! Besides supplies, cash was collected – some actually came from Russia. It was not until 1967 that the Flood Fund eventually closed and before that happened money had been sent to Linton and Lynmouth in Devon to help those struggling in the aftermath of the disaster that happened there. Nowadays tidal levels are much higher than they were in 1953 due to global warming so constant vigilance is definitely a requirement.
V E Bines


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