“2015 Christmas Party”
Pat Martin, the Society’s chair welcomed a good sized audience of members to the meeting at The Ruskin Centre for what was the final meeting of the year and actually the 12th Christmas Party organised by the Society for its members. There was much lively conversation as nibbles and festive treats were enjoyed with a glass of wine or soft drink.
Pat then started off the 20 question quiz by distributing question sheets to anxious teams who knew that their knowledge was about to be publicly examined! Whilst teams conferred and wrote down their answers there was a general hush of concentration in the room until the loud exclamation of a shabby looking stranger broke the silence … “where’s my son, have you seen my son?” resonated around the room as the unexpected stranger walked in demanding an answer from some members of the startled audience. On closer inspection, the man could be identified as a chimney sweep - the brush over his shoulder and sooty face gave it all away really. Then of course quite a few in the audience started to recognise him because they knew him as Stan Hawthorne, the Amblecote chimney sweep who had been engaged to provide some light entertainment. Stan had been sweeping chimneys for 42 years, the tallest he had tackled being a 65 foot chimney in Lichfield. He related that he had actually been a signalman on the railways, had 4 children, was about to celebrate his diamond wedding anniversary in 2016, describing himself as “honest, straight-forward and hard-working”.
Stan then went on to tell amusing anecdotal tales of his experience as a chimney sweep in the area and as far ‘south’ as Barnt Green where he had a misguided and amusing experience with Fiona, shrouded with youthful and innocent innuendo.
Chimney sweeps as we all knew traditionally attend weddings as the belief or moreover superstition was that if the bride saw a ‘sweep’ it would be a sign of good luck - it must have been true because on one day Stan attended 9 weddings and also met Elvis Presley (well a look alike) at one such matrimonial ceremony.
Stan also found quite a few things in chimneys from dead ducks to trapped pigeons and more seasonally a letter to Santa from a young boy, Jonathon, who wanted a new bike and a book for Christmas - the well preserved letter was passed around the audience. At the end of his talk Pat Martin thanked him, presenting an Amblecote History Society certificate as a formal record of his presentation.
Pat then presented a gift to Joyce Robins, who was retiring from her position of Treasurer, and bestowed upon her Honorary Life Membership in thanks for seven years of service to the Society.
Lance then gave members an update on Committee matters including the need to ‘recruit’ support to help the Society function effectively and in particular the urgent requirement to nominate a new Treasurer. He then continued to inform members about the composition of the 2016 meeting schedule.
The prize for the winning photograph in the recently announced competition was in her absence awarded to Joan Kendrick who provided the following narrative to support her entry: “This steam engine went by on its way home from the Bonded Warehouse. You could hear the rumbling as it came up the hill past Stourbridge Football Club so there was time to pop out and take this snap as it trundled by the gate at 108 High Street Amblecote. It made me think of other steam engines and the trams that used to come up the High Street regularly in the past. The drivers then wouldn't have been too worried by the speed camera!”.
The raffle was then drawn amidst a sense of great expectation with plenty of prizes awarded to take home, including the star prize of a bottle of Scotch whisky. Lance on behalf of the AHS Committee finally thanked everyone for their support over the year and wished everyone a very Happy Christmas.
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