Currently the aims of our constitution are principally achieved by the annual exchange visit, and in 2019 it was our turn to make the journey to Beaumont.
So, on the last weekend of May thirty-six members of our Society, twenty-eight adults and eight children, made their way from Wotton-under-Edge to our twin town for the thirty second exchange between our two communities. At a welcome reception on the Friday evening we were greeted by the mayor of Beaumont and old acquaintances were renewed. The evening was spent in the homes of our host families. On the Saturday we took a coach trip together. First on the itinerary was a guided tour of the delightful Chateau de Gaillon. Then, after a picnic lunch in the sunshine, the coach proceeded to Monet’s world-famous garden at Giverny. In the evening everyone gathered in a local restaurant for a formal celebratory dinner. The Sunday was a free day when each Wotton family was entertained by our respective French hosts. The exchange concluded on the Monday morning when everyone convened to share coffee and pastries and to say their good-byes, promising to all meet again, in Wotton, in May 2020.
Our programme of social events began on 17th May with a pre-twinning get-together at the Star. On July 6th Cathy and Derek Aston hosted a BBQ at Westend, Wickwar. On 8th September the Society hosted Town Hall Teas. Later in September Cathy and Derek were once again the hosts when they organised three dinner evenings at Westend. The year of events finished on November 16th with a quiz and supper at the Club Room in Gloucester Street.
Town Hall teas, the BBQ, the dinner evenings and the quiz were all valuable fund raisers, and thanks are due to Cathy and Derek, and to all those who supported the Society on those occasions.
I think it appropriate to mention that in October I represented the Society at a reception acknowledging George Carpenter’s 50 years as Town Crier; and on Remembrance Sunday, accompanied by Martin and Lucy Taylor, I laid a wreath at the war memorial on our behalf.
After much discussion the committee decided to apply for affiliation to the Wotton under Edge and District Community Recreational Trust, and in July our application was accepted. Currently nine other clubs and societies in Wotton are affiliated to the Trust. The Trust has charitable status and under its umbrella our Society could in future seek funding, for example financial support for young people to travel to Beaumont.
During the year we said good-bye to three stalwarts of our Society. Iain Marchant, Macrae McLusky and Peter Gadsden were not only long-standing members of the Beaumont-le-Roger Society but also men who made a significant contribution to the wider community. You may not all be aware of the role Peter Gadsden played in the establishment of our twinning. It came about in the following manner, and I quote Peter’s own words more or less verbatim:
“One of my partners in the office, Clive Major, was married to a schoolteacher who, while at Oxford University, became good friends with a Dr Robert Corbett and his wife Jean. Robert Corbett subsequently became a director of a French oil company, lived for some time in Paris, but later moved to a village near Beaumont. Clive Major and his wife were invited to stay with the Corbetts. Jean Corbett played tennis with Marie Françoise Desson, wife of the mayor of Beaumont, Serge Desson. She learnt that Serge was anxious to learn of an English town about the same size and character with which to twin. On his return to England Clive Major relayed this information to me, knowing that I was a town councillor in Wotton. The rest, as they say, is history. Norman Ward, town mayor, David Kennedy, town clerk, and I together with our respective wives, set off in two cars to see for ourselves whether or not we would wish to become associated with Beaumont. A delegation from Beaumont was then invited to Wotton and was hosted in our own homes”.
I would like to say a big thank you to all the members of our committee for their support during the year; in particular Cathy Aston, supported as ever by Derek, who expertly organised another full programme of social events. Their contribution to our Society over several years cannot be over-estimated. John Mugridge worked tirelessly and efficiently making arrangements for our visit to Beaumont, as well as sorting out our membership list. Treasurer Martin Taylor has managed the accounts for us, and vice-chairman Ken Tucker has acted as minuting secretary and been a constant support to me as chairman. Thanks are also due to Mark Woolfrey for continuing to look after our website. Finally, may I draw your attention to our website wottontwinningsociety.org which provides up to date information on our activities, as well as an archive of photographs and previous events.