A Belgian Day of sports and fun in Stratfield Mortimer

The parishioners of Stratfield Mortimer continued to warmly support their allocation of Belgian refugees. In the October issue of the parish magazine, they announced a special fundraising day on their guests’ behalf:

Belgian Refugees
The needs of the homeless refugees from Belgium, much or all of whose belongings has been deliberately and wantonly destroyed by savage malice, have touched all hearts. With a view to assisting in the task of providing them with necessary clothing, it is proposed to set on foot immediately a Sewing Party. This will meet in St John’s Hall on Wednesdays, October 7th, 21st, and 28th, from 2.30-5 p.m. Some invitations have been sent out individually, but Mrs. Palmer, who will be leader, hopes that all who have leisure and goodwill, and who are efficient workers, will come whether a separate invitation has reached them or not.

A “Belgian Day”
Now both of these excellent enterprises will devour a considerable quantity of material, and that material will need to be of good quality, for no one wants to make cheap or trumpery things when it is the winter that has to be faced. Whence then the wherewithal for the purchase of half-a-mile of flannel? and, shall we say, a hundred-weight of wool for knitting? A partial answer may come by the holding of a “Belgian Day”. What is a Belgian Day? It is a day when everybody, man, woman, and child, car and horse and dog, is to be cajoled into wearing a favour showing the Belgian colours, which favour is to be purchased at the price of – well, at some price that we can all afford to give; which price goes to the purchase of material for the sewing parties. Maidenhead made £300 this way a few days ago. Reading is determined to out-do this on September 26th. Let us take Saturday, October 3rd, and try to raise £10. Will you be willing to buy and wear a favour or two on that day?

The November issue of the magazine reported on the success of that Belgian Day:

Belgian Day – On Saturday, October 3rd, we held our Belgian Day in Mortimer, and all the people were very busy making “favours”, which nearly all the parishioners wore. Captain Davis decided to give the school children a treat, and the Headmaster (Mr. Andrews) of St. Mary’s School decided we should go in a procession round the village, those who had bicycles of perambulators decorated them, and the best decorated vehicle won a prize. We met at school at two o’clock and marched up to St. John’s School to meet the infants. Mr. Spratley kindly lent us his light van, which we decorated, and sat up the smallest of the children. When we arrived down in the meadow (kindly lent by Mr. Wise) two soldiers were waiting to greet us with a bag of sweets.

There were all kinds of sports, bowling for the pig, which was won by Mr. John Love, and the best decorated bicycle was won by Florence Tubb. Then the soldiers had a tug of war, Mortimer v. Bramley, Stratfield Saye v. “Irish King’s Own”. Mortimer won, and each of the men received a beautiful leather purse. Then between the men’s tug-of-war, 12 girls v. 8 boys, and the girls won. Later on, about seven o’clock, the prizes were distributed (Mrs. Mynors kindly distributed them), and those girls who took part in the tug-of-war received a beautiful handkerchief, it resembled the Union Jack. Then the soldiers danced, and one played a concertina, and while they were dancing another party got ready the camp fire, and the soldiers sang such songs as “It’s a long way to Tipperary,” and “The girl in the clogs and shawl.” When it got darker the soldiers made ready the imitations of the Crown Prince and the Kaiser, stuffed them with all kinds of fireworks, and set light to them. The people watched them burn with excitement. I am sure the school children enjoyed themselves as well as the soldiers. We all thank Captain Davis for the trouble he has taken.

Stratfield Mortimer parish magazine, October and November 1914 (D/P120/28A/14)

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