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Blast from the past

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WITH dusty records going back as far as 1911 and women definitely not allowed you could think you had stepped back in time.

The Hawsker-cum-Stainsacre Friendly Society certainly arcs back to a time past but the little known tradition is still going strong to this day.

On New Year’s Day it held its annual meeting which attracts about 70 members - none of which know exactly when or how the society they joined came to be.

Hawsker dairy farmer John Cummins (62) is the current treasurer and has been involved for over 40 years. Like many other members he got involved through his father and his grandfather before him.

They would have been a mixture of businessmen, solicitors and doctors among other professions meeting in a tin hut behind the store at the Windmill Inn at Stainsacre.

They all paid “one and six” (one shilling and sixpence) into a fund which was then paid out to members of the community who were in need.

Mr Cummins told the Gazette: “It was for anybody who was off sick or could not pay their way for a while so that they didn’t fall on hard times.

“This was long before there was any means of welfare or anything like that.

“There were about 40 members at that time, they would have an annual dinner and we have carried that on ever since.”

Meetings have now moved to Hawsker and Stainsacre Village Hall and the subs now stand at £12 per person for the year with rules and regulations stating that should a member die their heirs or executors are paid £60 and should the wife of a member die they will be paid £30.

There are around three beneficiaries a year with members ranging from 18 to 85 and several generations of the same family, notably Cummins, Beeforth and Trotters, keeping the tradition going.

Although in some years there has been less members than expected when a power cut almost scuppered the proceedings.

Mr Cummins recalls: “The electric went off so we actually had to have a candlelit supper. A lot of the members didn’t come in because they could see there were no lights on. It was a cold buffet so didn’t hurt and instead of tea and coffee we had orange juice instead but it was still a good night.”

Another staple of the group is that women are categorically not invited as was the norm with gentleman’s groups in the early 20th century.

Mr Cummins added: “It is a male society and always has been. There are no female people involved and never has been. They won’t have it any other way even though we have put it to the vote every year the answer is always a firm and unequivacal ‘no’.”

After a cold buffet, a catch up and a few Christmas carols the group, which meets for just two hours each year invariably heads off to a nearby pub for a festive tipple.

Mr Cummins added: “It is just a friendly meeting, it is what it is, everybody has a chat among themselves and we usually find our way to a pub afterwards for a drink.”

Secretary Neil Salter, an assistant headteacher at a school in Middlesbrough, added: “There is no real benefit in joining, it is just a case of keeping the tradition going.

“Some members are from Scarborough and Malton and don’t see each other from one year to the next or they might see each other every day of the week.

“Getting 75 people together on New Year’s Day is an accomplishment for any society especially when it meets only one day a year.”

pictures by Alan Wastell

 

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