February 2015 Report

I hope you all enjoyed the Village Hall Wassail in the Donhead Apple Orchard on the 17th of January. The form of this local event has changed over the years, and has a longer history than I had thought.

Gent's TicketI recall going to the new year event in the village hall in the early 1980s. At this time, ringing at St Mary's had just been restarted in 1976 following an initiative from Ralph Coward (Michael's father), after five years of silence following the death of Jack Sansom, the previous Ringers' Captain, in 1971. To raise funds to buy bell ropes, etc, and to create an event the whole village could be part of, they began holding an Annual Bellringers' Party on the first Sunday in January at the Village Hall from 12 noon until the last mince pie and glass of mulled wine had been demolished. And so it continued until 1985, when severe weather of ice and snow caused it to be cancelled. The following year, the forecast was again poor. It had always been very popular, so the ringers decided to consult the villagers to decide if a summer date was preferred. As a result, the village hall committee have hosted the Wassail ever since, on its usual date of the first January Sunday. In the last 2 years, we have had the Donhead Apple Orchard and have been able to indulge in the old traditions of the orchard counties, wassailing the apple trees. This traditionally is on Twelfth Night, either Old or New Calendar. Strangely, the Old Calendar in the UK has retained the 11-day difference since we changed over in 1752 (there is now a 13 day gap between the Julian and Gregorian calendars). This makes Old Twelfth Night fall on 17 January, which conveniently was a Sunday this year.

Lady's TicketJust before Christmas, I was sent a very interesting letter by Stuart Asbury. In it were 2 tickets (see pictures) for the Bellringers' Invitation Dance. If you haven't got your ticket, sorry: you're too late: it was on Tuesday December 30th ... 1913. Daisy Martin (née Woodham), who was organist at St Mary's in the 1930s, had passed them to Stuart. It is interesting that the men paid 2/- while the ladies paid only 1/6. "2/-" represents 2 shillings, or 10p in today's coinage; today's equivalent value after inflation is £10. I think that is excellent value for an event, including refreshments, which had "DANCING 8 to 3". No bank holiday the next day either; they were made of sterner stuff then! Perhaps Ralph Coward (born 1902) remembered this dance.

To close the circle, the Schoolroom where the 1913 dance was held is today's Village Hall.

Christopher Sykes
www.donhead.sdgr.org.uk