The meeting was opened at 11am by Sue Bradley, County Chair, with almost 650 women in the main auditorium of Theatre Severn: we sang Jerusalem.

Sue welcomed Shrewsbury’s new Mayor, Cllr Beverley Baker.  At her first official engagement as Mayor, Beverley commented she was the only woman wearing a hat (a trilby) and promptly took it off.  She recalled her mother was a WI member when they lived in Zambia and was interested to know how many WI’s were in Shrewsbury, including Greenfields near where she lives.  After a short and admittedly unprepared 5 minutes heartfelt speech, Beverly closed by praising the WI and all it stood for.

The Chair welcomed the guests, who included Simon Bedrock: Shrewsbury’s Horticultural Societies’ Secretary, Journalist, Shirley Tart, and a young man from Young Farmers with a striking 2 tone hair do.

Apologies were sent from 9 other invited organisations.

Sue Bradley introduced the board of trustees, made up of volunteer WI members, which WI’s they belonged to, and the committees they sat on.  She gave thanks to Anne ? VPA and Glenys Wheeler who has been County treasurer for the past 4 years.  The new county treasurer will be Bridget.  Sue also introduced the office staff, Sue Johnson, secretary, who she describes as her ‘right hand woman’ and Debbie ? who keeps all the financial records in order.

delegates voted - by waving my blue agenda in the air, (just like the House of Commons) - to adopt the Articles of Association (special resolution), Standing orders, Minutes of last year’s meeting, and the Appointment of auditors.  All were carried with no objections.

Sue Bradley’s address as county chair was based on how, over the past 95 years, the WI has changed.  However, the WI ideals of friendship still remain the same.  Sue urged us to adopted change or stagnate  She told us in 2008 it was decided to move the county office from Claremont Bank, to the existing temporary home in Abbey Foregate last year.  It’s hoped negotiations will be completed soon on our new offices, in Battlefield, where the IT, accommodation, and facilities will be perfect for the future of Shropshire WI.  ‘Watch this space’!

All Shropshire WI’s can now have a free webpage on the National WI’s website.  It’s where they can put information about who they are, where they meet, dates, times etc.  Board member, June Bales, will give individual WI’s their own password. 

Sue’s final words “Team sprit is evident in the WI, and long may it continue. Embrace change, together we can do it”.

Glyns Wheeler, County Treasurer for the past 4 years informed us of our financial status.  She had considered singing her report, but decided it was not a good idea! Basically despite problems with the pensions crisis, and the upkeep of Claremont Bank - a Georgian property, now, thanks to the sale of the house to a ‘cash buyer who did not want a survey’, our account is healthy.  We have a reserve of *for emergencies.  The accounts are available for inspection by appointment at the office.  Glyns said it has been a privilege to be county treasurer and she will now wear her ‘treasurers’ red shoes - saved for meetings’ at other occasions at last!

Cups and certificates were presented to 12 individual and WI group competition winners – too many to name, but details have been in the newsletters over the past year.

The morning speaker was a charismatic and entertaining man: Stuart Toulson, manager of Shropshire Council’s Oak Farm.  It is home to a vibrant and successful day service for adults with learning disabilities, providing vocational training and work related experience in horticulture and agriculture.  Stuart is convinced that bored people can become challenging, hence his total commitment to his role.  It was clear that Stuart is also a very caring man – obvious to us, as he fondly described the men and women who worked on the farm.  His photos of smiling, happy people showed us how they grow vegetables which are sold to the public, make award winning blackberry jam, and work with animals.  All tasks which may appear easy to us, could be challenging to those who had ‘varied degrees of ability’ – he was clear to use that term, rather than ‘disabled’. 

He recalled a conversation with resident of the local village, Ditton Priors.  Stuart had thanked the villager for raising funds for the farm.  ‘No’, said the resident, ‘it is the village that should thank the farm for being here –Oak Farm is an asset for the locals’. 

He continued making us smile, laugh and sometime cry with emotion, - anecdotes, told with passion and enthusiasm, e.g. one young man refers to their organic vegetables as ‘volcanic vegetables’.  And their ‘jumbleberry jam’ is made with the berries collected from the bottom of their freezer.

Stuart was so good a speaker that he received a standing ovation and it was later announced that a collection was to be made with the proceeds going to Oak Farm.  The vote of thanks was accompanied with a cake made for Stuart which was gluten free.  It was at this point we could see by his open tears he was extremely touched by the meetings lengthy applause and he said with genuine emotion that it had been an absolute pleasure to be with Shropshire WI

The chairs of all the sub committees gave their announcements on how their committees have been active since the last annual council meeting.  Information on all the events has been or will be in the county newsletter.

The meeting folded at 12.30pm for lunch

The meeting was re-opened at 2pm sharp and Sue Bradley introduced the afternoon speaker, Colin Alderson.  

After leaving Scarborough Technical College having qualified as a Chef, Colin obtained work locally in the Yorkshire Dales where his parents had a farm.  After a short time in the Army Catering at Catterick, he worked at Bolton Castle in Wensleydale.  While at Bolton Castle he applied for a job as Chef to the Royal Household. When he was appointed to work at Buckingham Palace, this opened up a whole new world to the young chef from Yorkshire.

Colin's talk ‘Life In The Palace Kitchens’ gave members detailed accounts of the elaborate meals he served for 5 years in the royal homes, including Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Balmoral, Holyrood, the Castle of May and Sandringham. On board the royal yacht, Britannia the sailors frequently volunteered to do the washing up in order to enjoy more delicate fare than that served in their quarters.

Each morning, Mr. Alderson had an audience with the Queen to discuss menus for the following day and it was interesting to see photos of the meals planned with Her Majesty’s approval and written entirely in French. He also recalled less formal times during holidays at Balmoral with royal children helping in the kitchen, the ghillies’ ball and fancy dress parties judged by the Queen.

This was a fascinating presentation, with photos, and we heard about the preparation it takes to get ready for a State Banquet, making 2,000 canapés and 4,000 lobster tartlets.  We heard ‘inside stories’ about the Royals ‘favourite foods’.  Princes Margaret loved Tuti Fruiti ice cream.  The queen loves curry, eats salad every day and she once ate a whole 12” chocolate birthday cake, decorated with only one candle, all to herself.  Prince Philip always personally inspects the food to be cooked, prior to his cooking on the BBQ.  At Princes Anne’s wedding to Capt. Mark Philips a mint ice cream bombe was served and the wedding cake was cut into 2,000 slices.  The staff had a collection and brought the couple a Spode dinner service as a wedding present.  Prince Charles and Camilla’s wedding cake weighed 17 stones.  The top of Charles 60th birthday cake was decorated to look like a garden at his home, Highgrove.  ‘Jam Pennies’ basically jam sandwiches cut into penny sizes were always made for the Royal Ascot parties.

He considered the best Royal kitchens were at Holyrood, and the worst, Buckingham Palace.  We were surprised to hear that it took 10 minutes to walk the 400 stone steps from kitchen to dining room in Buckingham Palace.  Kitchen to table timing was very difficult, especially when the very popular Royal soufflés were served.  

We heard the Queen appeared to be very considerate of her kitchen staff.  At Christmas they were all presented with a Christmas pudding from Harrods, until a particular date.  Then the puddings came from Tesco.  All the staff was asked to choose their Christmas presents to the value of £20.  Colin still has a teapot he was once given.

After leaving the royal household, Colin brought and ran ‘The Balmoral Hotel’ in Harrogate.  It was there he entertained the Queen Mother to dinner and cooked her an 8 minute lemon soufflé with raspberry sauce

Mr Alderson is now retired but gives his time as a volunteer 3 days a week at St Michaels hospice in Harrogate, where everyone enjoys Colin’s cooking.

This was a 45minute insight given by Colin Alderson, without obvious notes, into how the royal Household enjoys well presented, locally sourced, delicious food, and we now know that Her Majesty wants her Salmon tartlets to taste of fish!

To the surprise of us all, Colin had made and iced a 12” cake which was donated as first prize in the raffle.  The winner was absolutely delighted!  Vote of thanks by Dot Henderson, who I know is a brilliant cook.

The raffle tickets were rummaged and won, Claremont Club prizes dipped, County Bursary collected, Denman Burseries drawn.

WI birthday certificates were presented to representatives – information in the newsletters.

Chairman, Sue Bradley wrapped up the proceedings with a few ‘thank you’s said from the heart: for everyone’s support as this has been quite a stressful year for her.  To the board, all committees and sub-committees, office staff and the members present.  We should all leave the meeting with a sense of achievement – for playing a big part in making the many milestones of 95 Years of Shropshire WI.

All present Sang the National Anthem

Meeting closed at 3.45pm