We had a full house for the popular and expertly engaging speaker, Helen Allinson, who revealed a fascinating picture of the nature of Kentish Workhouses in the fabric of our village and parish lives. For Lynsted Parish, the original workhouse was at Bumpit before investment was made in a much larger workhouse in Faversham, which served the surrounding Parishes. Venue for the event was the Greenstreet Methodist Hall, Lynsted Lane
This popular social event was well attended and, thanks to the generosity of Members and their guests, we have been able to make a donation to the Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust of £440! Well done and a very enjoyable evening was had by all. The evening's funds were subsequently added to by a gift in memory of a recent loss - we give thanks for that generosity.
An excellent turnout of members and non-members arrived at the Greenstreet Methodist chapel to hear the amazing story of this disabled tug boat captain, who lived and worked on the Medway and Swale, given by his great friend Frances Beaumont.
John was born in a little village near Peterborough, and to the great distress of his parents was born without hands, only shortened arms, and one club foot with a shortened weakened leg. His grandmother however fought for him, and encouraged him to live normally, finding ways to cope with his problems. John was transferred from the local school, where he was making progress, to a “special” school in Manchester. This was a miserable time. He remembered always being hungry, and it was 10 years before he saw his family again! He was saved by the war when the school was evacuated to the countryside, which he loved. As a country boy he was put in charge of feeding the pigs and was able to smuggle swill back for the children to eat. All this remember with no hands! It was during this period that, using his good foot, he became an accomplished artist, so much so that he was offered a place at the prestigious Slade Art School. He was unable to afford this sadly, but did get a partial grant that enabled him to go to Northampton Art College. During his time here he made friends with a lad working on Thames Barges, and went sailing with him. He quickly overcame his disabilities and loved boats. He and his friend bought a boat and so John came to the Medway. He gradually traded up to larger craft, becoming ferry man to Medway Bridge Yacht Club. Finally he bought a tug boat and named her The Hobbit. Frances thought even then that he had much in common with Tolkien’s creations! John became well known as he lived and worked on the rivers. Stories abound of what an extraordinary sight it was to see him throw a tow rope, or skilfully bring his tug alongside and tie up. Joan Smith, who lived on a barge in the 70’s, shared some of her memories with us. John tended to work in the summer and then travel the country to paint. He had a tricycle with a small trailer, on which he built a tent and would cycle hundreds of miles, especially to Cornwall. To support himself on these travels he worked as a dogsbody in pubs, eventually teaching himself to cook. He was apparently a very good French chef, all remember despite his disabilities. He was a fiercely independent man, who could be spikey if he thought people were making allowances for him. He wanted to be treated like everyone else. One of his more common duties was sadly to fish bodies from the river, though he also saved many lives. He was a great fan of steam power and involved with attempts to save The Medway Queen, and more successfully the tug Cervia, which is now moored in Ramsgate. Eventually he bought a small houseboat and continued to live on the river at Rochester until ill health forced him to move to a home. His fierce independence never really took to that. He was well known in Chatham high street due to his high speed manoeuvrings aboard his electric buggy. When Frances launched his ashes into the ebbing tide, from the pier where he had lived, onto the river, they floated upstream not down, and then circled for some time, reluctant to leave!
This strange local story was much enjoyed by all present. It is hard to imagine the struggle his life must have been, and even harder to imagine how he lived it so fully. As someone who knew him well said at the meeting, when I have difficulties I just think of John and realise - problems, what problems!!
If any of you are interested in this Frances is currently writing a book which she hopes will be published in due course with the aid of a society she is presently setting up www.ojoliverbook.org
We had our very own Lynsted apiarist, Kay Wreyford, come to speak to 24 of us at Green Street Hall on Wednesday 19th April. Kay, who is not only a bee keeper but also a DEFRA Seasonal Bee inspector, gave an extremely interesting and enthusiastic presentation, taking us through the history of bee keeping, the annual cycle of a bee keepers’ maintenance of hives, and some of the problems and pests that affect the colonies. Of particular note was the potential danger of the Asian Hornet, a predatory wasp (see picture), which has gradually migrated from the Far East as far as northern France and could undoubtedly decimate our hives if it reaches Kent; we were all urged to report any sightings. A clue is in another name for this hornet - the "yellow-legged" hornet that contrast with its broadly black thorax/body & single yellow stripe.
Afterwards we had an opportunity to taste (and buy) some of her local honey, the taste of which varies depending on where the bees forage; for example, honey from lavender nectar tasted completed different to that from rape seed plants. Regardless of source, they were all delicious. We also saw (and tasted) 'early season' honeys that are distinct from 'summer' honeys.