Christmas Party: Thursday December 14th at 2.00pm in Kirton and Falkenham Village Hall.
Entertainment provided by a hand-bell ringers group.
January 2018 Meeting: Thursday 11th at 2.00pm in the Village Hall.
Speaker Linda Sexton on The WI and the 1953 floods.

As usual the WI has several future events planned. On the 18th of January Kirton and Falkenham are arranging a trip to the New Wolsey Theatre to see a schools production of Little Red Riding Hood and on the 22nd of February our usual winter lunch will probably take place in the Orwell Hotel. Later in 2018 we are hoping to pay another visit to Newmarket Races. The Suffolk East Federation is planning three holidays next year: namely ‘Springtime in Holland’, ‘A Northern Ireland Autumn Adventure’ and ‘Durham, Castles and Cathedrals’, while Denman College is going to arrange a tour of WWI battlefields. Suffolk East also have other events on offer such as two Christmas Carol concerts, a Homemade Soup Day, a trip to Christchurch Mansion to see ‘Wolsey’s Angels’, four statues intended for his tomb, and two ten pin bowling get-togethers. The National Federation are planning holidays to Yorkshire and to the North West of England.
The November meeting is always the time when our AGM takes place and this year we were visited by our WI Advisor, Chris Coulson. Once the business had been transacted we learnt that the committee personnel remained unchanged while Ann Colvill was re-elected as our president. It was announced that our stall at the Arts and Crafts Fair made £69 this autumn.
Having dealt with the essentials we were then able to turn to our speaker, Mr Brian Cornell, who had been waiting patiently. His subject was Thames Lightermen. Mr Cornell was himself a retired Lighterman and he began by telling us that the River Thames was once a tributary of the River Rhine until, nine million years ago, along came the first Brexit when water flooded down from the north and Britain became separated from the continent of Europe. The Thames used to be much wider than it is now and, before any bridges were built, travellers were rowed across to the other side, the watermen usually charging exorbitant fees. To become a Lighterman – a worker who operated a Lighter, a type of flat-bottomed barge that ferried goods from ocean-going craft to the dockside – a six year apprenticeship had to be served under a master. When Mr Cornell served his apprenticeship his master had four other apprentices to supervise and this was because so many Lightermen had been killed in WWII that the species was rather thin on the ground, or rather the water. After two years of study an examination was taken at Waterman’s Hall in the City of London. Then, if the student passed, another four years of training followed after which he should have had an intimate knowledge of all the river’s currents and tides.
In the good old days the barges were moved by muscle power alone and the rower often had to deal with cargo weighing up to fifty tons. Mr Cornell showed us many photos, some quite historic, of the river and its docks. He also told us about Mudlarks, Swan Upping and Toe Rags, which were what the workers tied around their feet when loading grain to prevent the seeds getting in their boots. ‘Sweeps’ were also explained. These were huge oars by which just two men could operate a barge between them. The Lightermen’s trade eventually became redundant when docks were built at which large ships could moor and by the introduction of containers for carrying the goods.
V E Bines


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