Neston's Historic Ladies Day Walk
|Published: 8th June 2013 11:19|
Ladies Day in Neston takes place on the first Thursday in June.
The History of Neston Ladies Club Day
On the first Thursday of every June, Neston echoes to the sound of festival as the ladies of the local Female Society walk in procession through the town, drawing sightseers in their hundreds from the surrounding district.
Formed in 1814 as a means of mutual self help for women, it was the first female friendly society in the country. By paying regular subscriptions the members were able to establish and maintain a fund, from which they could claim assistance in times of financial difficulty, such as sickness and old age.
The colourful anniversary walk keeps the society in the public eye and mind. They are led by a band. The kilts added even more colour. Brightly dressed women and girls form the long procession which makes its way down the High Street to the Parish Church. In their hands they carry the same white staves that are carried at funerals, but instead of black crepe they are garlanded with flowers and ribbons.
Traditionally the flowers are gathered from the members' own gardens. Red peonies, which are at their best in the Neston area during the early part of June, have become such a feature of the occasion that they are known locally as Ladies Day flowers. Before the procession two stalwarts bear the society's 7ft. square banner with its motif of clasped hands and text from St. Paul's letter to the Galatians, "Bear Ye One Another's Burdens."
The Mayor in his robes and chain of office, members of the local clergy, and many other local dignitaries walk as the guests of the society.
Inside the church the scene is as colourful as that in the High Street, with flowers packed onto every ledge that will hold them. Before taking their seats the members of the society stand their staves in the umbrella holders at the end of the pews, transforming the aisles into avenues of flowers.
Within recent years, however, the society has assumed an additional importance, it is once more unique. All the other female friendly societies in the country have been disbanded, rendered obsolete by the welfare state. Only the ladies of Neston, conscious of their responsibilities as the guardians of a tradition, walk in the footsteps of the pioneers of 1814.
Re-produced by kind permission of Valerie Place and Neston U3A - click HERE to visit the U3A website.
Our thanks to Andy Williams for the following two pictures of Neston 'Ladies Club' in 1910:
View more historic images of Ladies Day in "Days Gone By - Neston."