Report of the weekend meeting for the 31st AGM – Swaledale, September 5th and 6th 2015
Another beautiful Swaledale weekend greeted 36 members who met in Muker Public Hall on Saturday 5th September.
After a chance to ‘catch up’ over a coffee, Godfrey (17) introduced our first speaker, Lynda Powell, Director and Curator of the Green Howards Museum in Richmond. Lynda’s talk on ‘Local Military Connections – the Recruitment of Dalesmen to the Militia and Volunteer Forces’ was to provide a link with our Sunday morning visit to the Green Howards Museum in Richmond. We learned of the ‘home guard’ role of the militias from the 14th century onwards; how they were raised; the nature of their duties and the punishments they might expect for failing in those duties. In 1757 a ballot of men, aged 18 to 60, formalized recruitment. Happily (regrettably?) few of the members present would have qualified! Uniforms of the militias were impressive – red with black velvet trim and buttons of silver identifying the officers. Some men, such as Robert Alderson and William Alderson, brought their own horses.
Fear of French invasion in the 18th century spurred the formation of additional volunteer forces for local defence. The Loyal Dales Volunteers mustered in 1804 in Richmond. Nicknames were used for roll call to avoid confusion – there were 8 Thomas Aldersons!
We were told of the merger, in 1852, of militias with regular army regiments; in the Richmond area this was with the Green Howards. By 1885, green had been added to the regiment’s uniform.
Lynda emphasized the rich resource for family research which is provided by the records of these groups.
The AGM followed with the annual reports and elections of new officers. After a delicious lunch, catered by Gunnerside’s Ghyllfoot Restaurant, there was the usual group photo and then our afternoon talk began.
June Hall, a notable authority on Cumbrian History and a Tutor in Textile Skills, spoke to us about sheep breeds and the woollen industry – with particular emphasis on the Dales. Most of us could have named a few breeds but it is doubtful we would have got anywhere near the 60 plus bred in the UK! We learned of the flock identification markings and of the processes needed before using wool for spinning into yarn.
June also spoke about the Knitting Industry and how, as a cottage industry, it had involved the men, women and children of the Dales. At the conclusion of her talk, June demonstrated the spinning of yarn and everyone crowded round to watch and to examine the many artefacts she had brought.
Many of the members stayed on to enjoy our usual reception and evening meal at the Kearton Country House Hotel in Thwaite, followed by the Green Howards Museum visit in Richmond on Sunday morning. There we gleaned much more information about how the Green Howards regiment got its name and the changes to that name over time. Fascinating displays and exhibits illustrated the history of the regiment and its record of service in many conflicts and countries. The attitudes of respect, comradeship and pride in the regiment were evident.