Pictured top left (left to right) are: Mrs Fryer,
Mrs Hurst, Amy Nicholls, Meg Dalby, Mary Jackson, Mrs Jarman, Gladys Harrison,
Frances Ansell, Meg Coles, Vera Beadsworth, Mrs Parker, Sheila Spriggs, Sheila
Walsh, Mrs Kisby (WI president), Winifred Keely, Mrs Brown (husband worked as
gardener at Bury House), Hilda Bradshaw, Mrs Shorely, Barbie Grainger, Mrs
Barby, Miss Simpson, Mrs Simpson (white haired lady in front), Mrs Dilkes,
Doris Coles (owned sweet shop in High Street), Mrs Broomfield (wife of
the butler at Bury House).
The Cottingham and Middleton WI choir won a
number of shields and awards for their performances and on several occasions
took part in the International Eisteddfodd at
Llangollen. Apparently, the village used to empty on that day!
Morley Stuart recalls: "My mother,
(Florence) Margaret Stuart ran the Cottingham-cum-Middleton Ladies' Choir for
not only sang at music festivals (particularly the annual event at Oundle),
but also gave concerts to local organisations, particularly social clubs
for the elderly. These concerts were a mixture of straight pieces and
entertaining items, together with a few sung solos and my mother playing
the violin (she was a superb player and led the orchestra for my
production of 'The Gondoliers' on Guernsey only a few months before her
death). It seems incredible to me that the elderly gentlemen were, of
course, veterans of The First World War.
"Occasionally I took part as a little boy; there was
a popular song called 'Seven little girls sitting in the back seat,
a-kissing and a-hugging with Fred'. I used to have a cap, scarf and a
driving wheel and sing the verses, while behind me seven of the ladies in the choir used to make a fuss of one of the
elderly gentlemen from the audience, sitting on his knees and singing the
Chorus 'Keep your eyes on the driving, keep your hands on the wheel' to
me. Yet another regular item was The World Tour. My mother used to
introduce this supposed Choir Tour (and some of the audience clearly
believed that they had actually gone on a tour), and then began a
selection of songs from different lands which my mother and the
accompanist Mr Rodney Spriggs (who lives in Middleton) had put together.
"Each song brought another item from the ladies'
bags; they donned caps for 'A little Dutch girl and a little Dutch boy',
they fastened on mantillas and brandished fans for 'Lady of Spain', etc. I
remember very clearly my mother saying "And so we came to Turkey. And
there I lost them all for a little while in the harem'" The ladies would
all have fastened veils across their faces and, as Rodney played one of
the famous Turkish pieces by Mozart, the ladies' eyes dotted here and
there over the tops of their veils. It brought the house down, although I
am sure that it would be politically incorrect!
"Mrs 'Midge' (her real name was Vera, but she was
always known as Midge) Claypole and my mother did a very fine double act
with 'There's a hole in my bucket'. Yet another favourite was a selection
of old songs from The Music Hall days, and there was another, very
cleverly designed 'Seven Ages of Women'. I can picture all the ladies
dressed up, with the songs going from 'Twenty Tiny Fingers' to 'Little Old
Lady Passing By' with all the stages between courtesy of William