Rhoda Woodward Tribute 9: My Jubilees

From an early age I would have been familiar with the word “jubilee”, as my father was reminded of Queen Victoria’s jubilee on some occasions, often when we were out for a walk and heard the church clock playing one of its three-hourly chimes or passed one of the big oak trees either on the village green or at the Milton turn. Both had been purchased to commemorate Queen Victoria’s golden jubilee in 1887. My father did not marry until into his forties and could just remember the tea and celebrations: he would have been six years old at that time.

We always knew a lot about our Royal families; people showed great respect for them, Many homes had a picture on the wall of King George V and Queen Elizabeth. We were taught about them at school and learned to stand to attention for the National Anthem in the Guides and Brownies. Newspapers published lots of photographs of their activities and if we were lucky on the odd occasion we went to the pictures we would see them on the Pathe News. The then Princess Elizabeth was about my age and the Duchess of York the same age as my Mother, who found a picture of the whole family in a magazine and framed it to hang on our wall.

One day in 1935 our headmistress told us that we were to start to practise our may pole dances ready for the Jubilee and that there was to be a May Queen and maids of honour of which I was one. We had to wear white dresses and shoes; we were to wear a crown made from flowers and carry a broom stick with more flowers tied to the top. After the parade we were given a tea and a coronation mug; there were sports for both young and old and dancing in the evening. Every house in the village had been decorated and there were hundreds of different souvenirs in all the shops.

Forty-two years later when I had a grown-up family we were again to have a Jubilee. My mother had died the year before and I was approached by a much younger friend of hers to see if I had any of her old photographs or treasures that I would be willing to loan to an Exhibition that was to be part of the celebrations. The next time I saw her she said the rest of the committee had lost interest and would I help her with the exhibition. Neither of us had done anything like it before. People were just asked to bring anything that they could find. One old lady brought a black crinoline and bonnet. We borrowed a dressmaker’s dummy and fixed on a polystyrene head and I drew a face – which made a perfect model to show off the dress and bonnet. Time and time again we rearranged the tables to make room for more and more exhibits, as people brought one thing and then went back for something else.

We were open for three days. We had borrowed some old fire engine uniforms etc. and one gentleman who had driven our fire engine stayed the whole time to talk about the days when we had a fire brigade to anyone that showed the slightest interest.

I did not see much of the other celebrations, but I certainly caught the bug and my life changed as I began to take an interest in researching and writing about local history. I have made many friends through my work and still get a lot of pleasure from what I do.

Another twenty-five years have passed. This time our committee decided we would have a golden jubilee weekend. However, mine started on the Friday when, as a Parish Councillor, In went with one of the School Governors to the primary school to present each child with a mug. In the evening I took my albums with my collections of village photographs and documents and china memorabilia to the Chapel Schoolroom then helped to set up the Adderbury History Group’s exhibition.

I took a day off on Saturday to attend my granddaughter’s wedding, then on Sunday there was a lovely united service in the Church (well attended in spite of the football). Wearing my Parish Councillor’s hat once more I was off to the playing field for the cutting of the tape to open the newly-equipped play area, finished only just in time. I had my garden, one of seventeen small village gardens, open in the afternoon to make money for the improvements to the Institute, which raised almost £700.

Eight fifteen saw me getting a lift down to the village to set up the over-sixties stall in the street market. In spite of a heavy shower people stayed and were able to shelter under Queen Victoria’s Jubilee tree. We mopped up and sold a lot more raffle tickets, taking £132, and managed to make the draw in time to join both the senior citizens and the children in a street party outside the library. I had not seen much else that say, so went into the library to look at the entries to a photograph competition and discovered I had won first prize in the people’s section. I then waited to receive my prize, a camera, and managed to make the last hour at the History exhibition and collect my things and pack up.

The evening entertainment in the playing field was a long walk down and I was tired. However, I was able to hear all the music and spent the evening watching television and popping out from time to time to listen to the singing which came across from the park quite plain. The fireworks on the TV were over in time for me to go outside and watch our own firework display. A wonderful, unforgettable weekend, but a pity more people did not decorate their houses.

Rhoda Woodward

Comments are closed.