7 April 2011
A ROYAL CENTENARY CELEBRATION
The Duchess of Gloucester honours us with Her Presence
Family News from the National Children’s Home June 1969
Thanks for your message and I thought you might like this account of the Centenary Celebration which was published in the NCH Family News magazine.
A fanfare heralded the arrival of Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Gloucester on Saturday, 12th April, for the Centenary Celebration of the National Children’s Home. The vast auditorium was filled with the Home’s friends, including many present and ex-staff, many of whom had travelled great distances to be present. The programme, introduced by Eric Blennerhassett, provided us with an evening of fast moving and smoothly directed entertainment, both serious and gay.
It began very fittingly with a portrayal of the beginnings of the Home with ‘Dr Stephenson’ taking pathetic urchins from their hiding places in barrels and boxes to the security of a true Home at No 8 Church Street, Lambeth. Next we saw the boys earning money by selling fire-wood from a cart drawn by a very realistic-looking donkey! Following this scene we were brought right up to date as we watched the arena become filled with the present-day occupants of the NCH – girls and boys of all sorts and sizes, some in Brownie uniform, some skipping, hopping, jumping, playing games and generally enjoying themselves. Nursery nurses were there and, not least, children from Chipping Norton who brought with them their own special mechanical aids which helped them to join this great throng of lively girls and boys and young people.
Later, there were glimpses of the life and varying activities of these modern children, beginning with the difficulties of rousing heavy sleepers, with accompanying pillow fights and lively bathroom noises!
The Brackley Folk-Dance Team then ‘rehearsed’ for a country dance display in readiness for a Festival. This was accompanied by the boys’ band of the Pilgrim School, Bedford. We not only thoroughly enjoyed the skill and grace of the dancers (trained by Mrs W T Clark) but also the attractive appearance of the young people. The Painswick Branch staged their famous mock boxing tournament, which must have made the Marquis of Queensbury turn in his grave. The two unlikely contestants (with ‘Killer’ and ‘Tiger’ on their bath robes) gave us a few minutes of hilarious comedy. Sport of a more serious kind was to come when, after a hard fight in an exciting ‘five-a-side’ football final, Brackley beat Alresford by one goal to nil. World Cup referee Stanley Lover supervised the game, and at the close the Duchess of Gloucester met the team and presented the cup to Brackley. Her Royal Highness was interested to hear of the Brackley Branch which is near her own home. A team of boys from Danesford School, Congleton, then showed us how incredible agility, controlled movement and a touch of comedy can make a gymnastic display high entertainment.
Two very necessary aspects of life of the Home – money raising and an aid to families in danger of collapse – were depicted for us. Young people from Princess Alice School took us back to Victorian times when money was raised by using the children in travelling concert parties. Friends from the Northwood Drama Group gave us some typical reactions to the modern methods of collecting for charitable organizations. An unusual and moving ballet and mime presented by the ‘Rodlovas’ under the direction of Hilda Rodl, showed tragedy striking an ordinary family and how help given in the right way can keep a family together.
NCH owes much to friends from the world of entertainment who give of their time and talent to serve the Home. Several of these friends were welcomed as guest artists – Percy Edwards turned the Albert Hall temporarily into Noah’s Ark with his animal impressions; Bob Arnold, ‘Tom Forrest’ of ‘The Archers’ brought greetings from his Ambridge friends; Cyril Jackson had the audience clapping to the music of his One-Man Band. In place of Johnny Morris (who unfortunately had been admitted to hospital the day before) we welcomed the extremely funny comedian George Martin.
And so to the finale – Ray Browne (an old boy of the Harpenden Branch) pointed us from the past to the future – to the next 100 years of NCH and to the possibility of overseas expansion. We then heard a Toccata especially composed for the occasion by Paul Wright (the youngest organist ever to play on the Albert Hall organ). Finally as the arena thronged with children, through their midst walked a solitary child. We did not know her name or her story but as the Principal (the Rev John W Waterhouse OBE, MA, BD) greeted her with outstretched arms and the great audience sang ‘Now thank we all our God’, the words ‘Whosoever shall receive one of such children in my name, receiveth Me’ came to us with a fresher and deeper significance. The Celebration for a Century of Caring for children had come to a fitting close.
Mr and Mrs E F Stephenson left the Scarborough Branch in March 1969 and were replaced by Mr and Mrs D T Graham. They had a son and daughter, Ian and Lesley.