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go back to the last page you were on Memories of Whitsuntide

Muriel Wells

Mention of the Whitsuntides of the past brings back memories of prewar processions on that day. The Sunday Schools gathered together, (at Pool Meadow in Coventry), and then we marched around a route through the city streets. I don't remember it in great detail, as it was so long ago, but there we were, marching behind our Sunday School banners, which had two sticks, with the pictorial banner unfurled between them. They were works of art and we were justly proud of our own! (Shades of rivalry crept in there!).

Bands were placed at intervals in the long, long "crocodile". If your Sunday School was equidistant between two of them you were in dire straits, in deciding which one to keep in step with, as they never seemed to coincide!

Coventry City Salvation Army band was one of Britain's leading bands at the time, so anyone within hearing of them had a treat! (As an aside, for a moment, the Midlands and the North had some wonderful brass bands, many were from the factories --- Fairey Aviation and Black Dyke Mills are names that spring to my mind. With my father, and his earlier military background, as my mentor in this respect, I was thoroughly "educated" in the niceties of a good brass band).

Back to the procession!

We all followed our banners, dressed in our best dresses ---- it always was hot and sunny in those days! Usually we had the extra excitement of new dresses. I don't think that the reason for Whitsuntide really dawned on us. Maybe it was different for the Church of England Sunday School pupils, but I belonged to Chapel!

The war interrupted this activity, and it became low key and less colourfully held in each suburb. There were no new dresses for us because of wartime restrictions ie. a limited supply of clothing coupons ---- even necessary for handkerchiefs, (4 for one coupon). And then I think it gradually fizzled out because of the daytime raids.

In my mother's time, at the very beginning of the 20th century, Whitsuntide was celebrated in great style. Fortunately I have a treasured record of this:

Sunday Scool Whit Walk, King Street, Bedworth c1905

Sunday School Whit Walk, King Street, Bedworth c1905

At the front is David Lucas, my maternal grandfather leading the pony that little Florrie is riding. Fanny, my maternal grandmother, and her sister Alice, are the two ladies in the road to the left of the policeman.

In that year, which was circa 1904/5, each Sunday School in Bedworth, North Warwickshire, had a little girl, dressed in white, riding a pony, heading its contingent. Auntie Florrie was being led by David Lucas, my grandfather. I believe that her group was from Collycroft, but can't be dogmatic about that.

Any of you who are fortunate to own a copy of one of the little books in the series, "Britain in Old Photographs", published by Sutton Publishing, will no doubt have photographs of Whit processions too --- and also other processions, as the populace turned out en-masse to cheer on any event. The Bedworth copy has some lovely example of all types, including a Coronation procession and a Remembrance Sunday one.

The photograph I have is a sepia postcard one and I successfully blew it up to A3 size where the detail appears on the colourful banners! I love to lose myself in this photo --- Granny and Great Aunt Alice had run out from the pavement with probably a few sweeties for little Florrie! ( I remember mothers doing that to us, too!). You can feel the excitement!

I also get lost in the Bedworth book. It is dangerous to open it unless I have nothing pressing to do! I steep myself in its ambience. It is very evident that it was a different time, when community involvement was greater and everyone joined in to share the excitements on offer. I sadly reflect that the modern media developments have widened our horizons but have destroyed that.

But different times ------- !!!!

We have losses --- and we have also some gains. One of the latter is the close communication I can now enjoy with my brother in England! So I have to be philosophical about many of the changes and the unavoidable downsides.

Written by Muriel Wells