ELHAS Meeting Report June 2009

The June meeting was preceded by the tri annual general meeting where society President Bob Lawrence welcomed everybody and gave a brief report on the ELHAS activities and financial status over the last three years, stating that the society was in great shape on all fronts. This was followed by re election of the current committee and voting on changes to the constitution. The business being completed we moved on to the final meeting of the summer season when we were delighted to welcome local speaker Canon Ann Hemsworth.

Ann is well known in Cross Gates both as a lay reader at Manston, St James Church and by her lifelong involvement with the guiding movement. She has also been a magistrate for twenty six years and is a popular and accomplished speaker.

Her subject this time was the life of Beatrix Potter. She promised to tell us some things we didn't already know about her and she certainly did. For example, whilst everyone is aware that Beatrix was an extremely intelligent and accomplished lady, we didn't know that she was able to recite by heart the whole of the bible and all the works of Shakespeare. Nor did we know that she invented a code to use for writing in her journal and personal papers which, after her death, took six years to crack and translate. Ann explained her own admiration of Beatrix stemmed from the fact that she felt here was a person who despite all the odds had used the talents she had been blessed with to enrich not only her own life but that of thousands of others. Beatrix was a scientist in her own right, but her knowledge and experience was disregarded by the male dominated establishment to the extent that a scientific paper she had written on growing spores was published as his own work by a member of the Linear Society to whom she had submitted it. She suffered some major disappointments in her life, her fiancé Norman Warne (her publisher) died within a month of the engagement and her subsequent marriage, at the age of forty seven, to her solicitor William Heelis was a bone of contention for both families. However she overcame all of this to produce twenty two children's books and is the best selling children's author. She was also able, due to her great wealth, to buy land and properties in her beloved lake district, thus ensuring the livelihoods of many lake district residents. Her alliance with Canon Rawnsley, which began when he persuaded her to publish her first book, culminated in her huge financial support of the National Trust organisation which he founded.

At her death she left most of her fortune to the National Trust and to this day proceeds from the sale of all Beatrix Potter books and memorabilia goes to support the Trust. So, as well as continuing to delight her young readers worldwide, her legacy continues in the pleasure National Trust properties bring to people all over the British Isles. Ann's talk about Beatrix was insightful, informative and thoroughly entertaining and provided a delightful ending to our summer season.

The next meeting will be on Monday 28th September and will be an illustrated talk by Martin Cocker entitled " Leeds' Own Air VC " The life and times of Flight Sergeant Arthur Aaron.