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COMBE MARTIN FRIENDLY SOCIETY

THE BANK HOLIDAY WALK AND FETE

 

Friendly Societies date from the 17th century. They were designed to help people through mutual support in times of hardship. Each month, members contributed a small sum which was saved by the Societies to provide payments for use when member's families were hit by hard times. The Friendly Society provided pensions, healthcare, insurance and so on - in the 20th century, their function was, in the main, replaced by the Benefits System. When Combe Martin was enjoying its Fete Day in 1896, there were 18000 such societies - today there are fewer than 300.

The mention of the treasurer's retirement and the fuss it created in the piece below is interesting. This extract is taken from a local newspapers :

 

CLUB WALK AND FETE 1896

For the past 40 years. 29 May has been kept as a general holiday at Combe Martin in honour of the institution known as the Combe Martin Friendly Society. Although the addition of the fête to the day's proceedings is of comparatively recent date, yet the members of the club and the inhabitants generally in years gone by, long before bank holidays were thought of, were wont to bedeck themselves in their best and gayest apparel, and to sally forth to their accustomed rendezvous – on the Kings Arms Green.

Favoured with beautiful weather, the 40th anniversary added another success to the list, and the officers and the committee generally are to be congratulated on the continued stability of the institution as well as on the satisfactory financial results of the fête.

 

The roll having been called by the secretary (Mr J Burgess), a procession, headed by the Combe Martin band, under Mr J. W. Cooke, marched to the parish church, where the Rev F. W. Toms conducted the service, and an appropriate sermon was preached by the Rev J. F.  Chanter, rector of Parracombe. The procession then marched to the head of the village, then on to the seaside, and back again to the town hall, where an excellent dinner was prepared for the party by Mrs Coneybeare, who had an able staff of assistants.

The dinner was presided over by the Rev Toms, the vice-chair being occupied by General van Norton Pole, who has become an honorary member. Mr R. Clogg, JP gave a brief account of the present financial position of the society, and read the balance sheet. Some criticism of this balance sheet, followed, and several questions were asked in respect to it. There was also an enquiry in reference to the policy of discontinuing some of the old practices of the Club, in order to lessen expenditure. At one time the discussion waxed so warm that it was with no small amount of difficulty that the chairman was able to maintain anything like order in the room.

When the excitement was over and order restored, the toast list was satisfactorily gone through. It included "the Chairman",", the Honorary Members",". The Preacher" and ", the Secretary". Speeches were made during the meeting on various matters connected with the society by Mr Clogg General Pole and the Rev Chanter. Mr Clogg also read a letter he had received from Mr Dovell tendering his resignation as Treasurer of the society. Mr Clogg expressed his regret at the course taken by Mr Dovell, who had been intimately connected with the club for so many years. Mr Clogg was appointed to fill the vacancy. After the business of the day was finished an adjournment was made to the fête field nearby where a large number of persons had already assembled.

A special committee undertook the work of carrying out the fête and sports, apart from the ordinary club committee. These are the results of the events - a curious mixture of sporting events capped by a comic song event.

Half mile: C Lewis; C Martin; N. Treweek

Quarter-mile:  C Creek; J Westlake; E. Westlake.

High jump E. Norman, J Doubt; A. Goss

Steeplechase: N. Treweek;  F Norman; W. Treweek.

Long jump: A. Gloss; F Norman; N. Treweek.

Wheelbarrow race:. J. Dennis; W. Parkin

Girls' race:  F Willis; C Berry; S Gill.

Boys' race: H. Sanders:  F. Stuckey : G. Latham

Hurdle race: F Norman H. Down; C Lewis.

Cycle race: W Ley; W Norman; R. Crang

Comic song : F Lewis.

 

The War Memorial Garden in Combe Martin

This little Memorial plot was donated in 1919 by the Misses Toms, daughters of the late rector (mentioned in the report above). The money to provide the actual Memorial was raised by concerts and public subscriptions, as well as by a donation at the winding up of the Combe Martin Friendly Society in that year.

© Richard J. Brine

,

 

 
 
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