'We Must Be Mad!'

Ruth Winder writes...

Chris asked me to make a potted history of the changes made to the hall in recent years. It will be potted, since not much is written down so it will come from memory, which is dodgy at the best of times.

It all started with the arrival of Fr Neil and the increase in catering requirements, for which we had precious little in the way of equipment - cutlery, crockery, pots and pans, tables, chairs,  etc - you name it, we didn’t have it. In order to equip ourselves Christine, Betty and I did a lot of outside catering and used the proceeds to furnish our needs, together with help from the St Faith's jam factory and the resident bakers. We only had for or five tables, so it was necessary to borrow from St Mary’s until we managed bit by bit to purchase the nineteen we have to-day. Chairs were sourced from all over the place, upper room, hall, church, organ loft, school and civic hall casts off, until we were able to twist the treasurer’s arm to fund some uniform decent ones until we were able to refund him from our first lot of table sales. Thanks to a legacy from George Smith, we were able to have a lovely new kitchen and replace the old four-ring cooker with the beauty we now have.

When Christine and I joined the premises committee, we soon realised how sadly neglected the hall was. The loft had to be cleared of dead pigeons and their mess, which was a major, filthy hazardous procedure which could only be carried out by professionals at some cost. At this time there was a complete rewiring done, and fire safety measures put in place, a new boiler was also required for the heating system, which was a huge item at the time. These things were funded by church and I think possibly some small legacies.

At this time legislation required disabled access and toilet facilities, which we were sadly lacking; with the big hole made in the coffers by other works we had little chance of meeting the extortionate costs suggested (£20,000). Mike Broom found a building contractor working nearby and arranged to have the ramp, and the steps at the vestry side of the hall done for a fraction of the cost. This left the problem of financing the toilet facilities. I approached Fr Neil and asked for permission to hold table sales monthly solely for the financing of these and other refurbishments, to which he agreed, so we set off on our next mission.

Corinne had joined us by this time, so the three of us got our heads together and agreed a way forward. We wrote to various charities requesting donations and were lucky enough to receive something like £2,300 variously from the Duchy of Lancaster, the Prison Services Charitable Fund and BBC Radio Merseyside Charitable Trust. This was a big boost for us, and together with an initial fund-raising evening in memory of Kevin Walsh organised by Judith, we continued with two years of table sales etc which helped us raise the £6,500 needed to complete the job. We are currently raising small sums by selling items on ebay! We had quotes from various companies, but used people we knew and trusted who did a good job for the minimum outlay; Peter the plumber did all the plumbing gratis.

Next on the list was to hide the old ugly poly-carbon windows with new blinds, so we carried on with table sales, raffles, jumble sales and any other means possible to achieve this - job done, another £600. We then decided not just to hide the old p-c windows, but to get shut of them altogether as they were loose and letting dirt in and heat out, and looked bad. So it was carry on, another £2,600 - same contractor as the toilets, a good job done. We also needed to replace the old hall doors with temporary fire doors whilst the originals were away being restored - another £500 - not up five minutes and the out-of-town kids were scrawling  all over them.

Now all this was done the old hall still looked sad and gloomy, so the only thing to do was to give it a good face lift. Onward and upward with table sales and any other means of funding, probably another 18 months worth. We wrote to Johnston/Leyland, Dulux, and Crown Paints, explained our task and our needs and were fortunate enough to receive two large donations of requested emulsion, undercoat, and gloss paint from Johnston/Leyland, and one from Crown. We had various estimates for the work, but decided to go with George Neild Building Services again, who had done our other work and we knew would do a good job.

George and his son Steve did the ceiling, beams, and the top of the walls. Funds being minimal, we had to do all of the woodwork ourselves, and there’s a lot of wood in that hall. Sanding down we had Christine, Corinne, Judith, Angie and Margaret Houghton. Undercoating we had myself, Corinne, Christine, Judith and Jacky Parry. For the glossing we had Mary and John Crooke, Mike Carr and Helen Kibbey, joined by Rosie and Rob (Mike’s daughter and son) on the windows, and cutting in. Myself, Judith Emily, Christine and Corinne were on woodwork and doors, and we enlisted the help of Stan, a neighbour, to help John Crooke out with painting the pipes as we were nearing the deadline to be ready for the Craft Fair on Saturday. Emily sat cross-legged on the floor painting the front of the stage and on the stage to give it two coats of Frigate Grey paint, (and didn’t paint herself into a corner). The place has had two undercoats and a top coat from the top down. 
It’s been a lot of hard work over the years, but fun as well. Trouble now is we are all about twelve years older and not as bendy as we once were!

A few of us decided to give up two days a month to achieve our goal, but it would not have been possible without the help  of people donating things to sell, coming to buy, supporting fund-raising. Many thanks to Audrey, Angie, Rosie, Mary, Fiona, Helen, Judith, Margaret Houghton, Maureen, Joan, Brenda and Gareth, Corinne, Liz Grey, Christine, Eunice, Irene, and anyone I have missed for helping out when possible on the days of the sales or baking us something to sell. Thank you all so much.

Special thanks to Mike Carr for the hundred and one jobs large and small he has done for us. He’s a little treasure, and together with Helen, fine ambassadors of the scouting movement, always willing to join in and help us in various ways. They make sure their charges are involved whenever possible, and give up precious time to ensure their presence at church parade for the church they represent.  Thank you, you are all so valued.

I can’t tell you how good it is to realise the fruits of our labours and see the hall looking so bright and fresh. If we had the energy we would have a party - to raise more funds!

We are not finished yet. The next project is the upstairs loo, it’s gross. Then we want to carry on from the porch to the upper room - helpers needed again! We have the paint ...

Over the years we must have raised something over fifteen thousand pounds, and for the work we have done little or nothing has been taken from church funds.

Finally I must commend George Neild, the contractor. He and his son had a mammoth task on their hands with that ceiling and worked extremely hard to bring it to life and expose the fine character of the beams. Thankfully if and when we need him again, there will be no task as challenging as that one. Well done and thanks to both of them.

Ruth Winder

PS. Not very potted this, is it? Memory must be better than I thought!

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