Fryern Ladies discuss blue plaques with guest at recent Probus lunch

The group with Doug Eaton SUS-150902-120328001
The group with Doug Eaton SUS-150902-120328001

We braved the snowy showers and snuggled around the welcoming, open fire at The Roundabout Hotel, West Chiltington, for our usual amicable, social gathering and necessary catch up on the local news.

This was the final meeting, before our first AGM in March, and there was a quiet sense of achievement, amongst the membership, and some congratulations; from many of the ladies present which made the committee and the prospective committee proud.

Over half of the membership had directly contributed over the year either as a committee member/ raffle helper/stand in or formal speaker and we enjoy this sense of a sharing community in our Probus.

Our Speaker of the day was Doug Eaton whose chosen talk title was ‘Those Blue Plaques on Houses’.

Actually we found that Doug’s itinerary ranges from 11 Historical Topics – 5 Showbiz ones and 1 lonely Social Topic being ‘Live Aid or Dead Aid – fighting for Women’s Rights in a Developing World’: certainly an interesting area for us and one to follow up later.

Doug was a gentleman of a certain age to which we could all relate especially as he had played alongside the Beatles at the Cavern Club in Liverpool and even today still plays music from his rock group The Elderly Brothers and organises sing alongs in care homes.

An enterprising man who had indeed in the past received The Queens Award for Enterprise from her Majesty but later decided to re-invent himself and, during the last ten years, has had diverse interests including talks to ladies like us.

It is amazing to be told that you have to, ‘Walk With Your Head Held High’ in order not to miss blue plaques on houses. When Doug referred to some famous plaques in West Sussex – that we frequently pass - we were dumbfounded and curiously embarrassed about our total lack of observation – oh dear!

Blue Plaques were founded in this country and were seen as a tribute and acknowledgement to someone who was famous or revered for their accomplishments towards society. The plaques were positioned on buildings – either homes or workplaces – of the commemorated celebrity.

The Scheme, founded in 1866 by William Ewart, Henry Cole and The Royal Society of Arts, erected plaques in a variety of shapes and colours; although blue was the prominent choice.

These plaques were unveiled by another celebrity and indeed Yoko Ono unveiled a dedication to her late husband John Lennon in 2010 in front of their old flat in Montagu Square – full of poignant memories no doubt as it was flat where they had both been arrested for drug use in earlier days.

We heard that the criteria for eligibility was to have lived or worked in the building displaying the plaque - to have been deceased for 20 years – and to have made an outstanding contribution towards society.

We also heard that plaques tend to increase property prices – now there’s an idea.

Zena Hiscoke warmly thanked Doug, on our behalf, and our next meeting will be our A.G.M. on March 5th followed by renditions of Pam Ayres by our very good friend Pat Beard.

Report by Russ Fry. Picture contributed by Simon Green - General Manager at The Roundabout Hotel.