Had a fab day yesterday following the quest for this year. Quest? You say. Is this a great endeavour aimed at bringing about world peace? ending inequality? famine? Well…errr…. no. While these are definitely laudable aims me and walking buddy J have set our sights a wee bit lower….
Our target for 2018 is …. to visit all 11 of the exhibits at the Cumbrian museums taking part in events ‘Celebrating the Women of Cumbria’. Yahoo!
Humming ‘The March of The Women’ (could just have been me) we boarded the good old 555 Stagecoach Bus at Kendal and set off for Keswick and Herstory. In case you want to hum along* here are the words of this rousing suffrage anthem written by Cicely Hamilton with music by Ethel Smyth.
The March of the Women
Shout, shout, up with your song!
Cry with the wind for the dawn is breaking.
March, march, swing you along,
Wide blows our banner and hope is waking.
Song with its story, dreams with their glory,
Lo! They call and glad is their word.
Forward! Hark how it swells
Thunder of freedom, the voice of the Lord.
Long, long, we in the past,
Cower’d in dread from the light of Heaven;
Strong, strong, stand we at last;
Fearless in faith and with sight new given.
Strength with its beauty, life with its duty
(Hear the voice, oh, hear and obey).
These, these beckon us on,
Open your eyes to the blaze of day!
Comrades, ye who have dared,
First in the battle to strive and sorrow;
Scorned, spurned, naught ye have cared,
Raising your eyes to a wider morrow,
Ways that are weary, days that are dreay,
Toil and pain by faith ye have borne.
Hail, hail, victors ye stand,
Wearing the wreath that the brave have worn!
Life, strife, these two are one!
Naught can ye win but by faith and daring;
On, on that ye have done,
But for the work of today preparing.
Firm in reliance, laugh a defiance
(Laugh in hope for sure is the end)
March, march, many as one,
Shoulder to shoulder and friend to friend!
Keswick Museum certainly did not disappoint. The staff were super helpful and friendly (even after I changed their knitting example from garter to stocking stitch … sorry) and for the sum of £4.50 we each purchased a 12 month ticket for this delightful museum.
We first had a quick tootle around the ‘old’ museum where I couldn’t resist playing (or attempting to) the huge slate ‘xylophones’ housed there. These amazing instruments have a fascinating history dating back to the discovery by Peter Crosthwaite in 1785 of his first 6 ‘music stones’ (sic). He produced a further 10 musical stones over the next six months and in later years his achievements were built on by Joseph Richardson of Keswick who spent 13 years (!!!) scouring the slopes of Skiddaw for rocks with the best tone in order to produce an extraordinary instrument which comes complete with candle holders and an 8-octave range. So popular was this instrument of percussive delights that in 1848 the ‘Richardson & Sons, Rock, Bell and Steel Band’ performed at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria. The instrument was donated to Keswick Museum in 1917.
I am lucky enough to have heard a selection of these stones (35 rather than the full 61) during a performance at Kendal Library some years ago. They were played by composer Brian Dewan and Jamie Barnes who performed (in 2005, I think) seven new movements for the musical stones written by Brian Dewan with the assistance of Jamie Barnes. Atmospheric indeed. But I digress…. what were we here for? Ah yes, ‘Herstory’.
We had a marvellous time learning more about this famous Lakeland town through the stories of its women. What I think absorbed us most in this mountainous area so beloved of climbers were the brave women who scaled the local peaks often dressed in long heavy skirts, heeled boots and an ever present tipfer pinned to their copious coiffured locks. It reminded me of a description of Ginger Rogers: “sure he [Fred Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did, … backwards and in high heels”.
Glad to say that some of these bold lasses donned knickerbockers under their skirts and when up in them thar hills took off their voluminous skirts and carried them (annoying enough) in their knapsacks.
My cartoon was inspired by the photograph we saw of Pauline Ranken and Lucy Smith of the Ladies Scottish Climbing Club ascending Salisbury Crags, Edinburgh in June 1908. Unlike my swinging lady above they were doing the job properly despite their attire and being suspended by what looked remarkably like string. Gutsy women.
We had a whale of a time and I would thoroughly recommend a visit to Keswick and its friendly museum post-haste.
We have now visited two of the eleven exhibitions. We tripped over the trail in the Museum of Lakeland Life (MoLLi) at Abbot Hall where we had gone to view the Folk Art exhibit. The MoLLi definitely set us on our quest as their exhibition was so cleverly woven into the museum’s existing artifacts giving us a taste of the struggles which both suffragists and suffragettes – didn’t know about the difference till then – faced in pursuing women’s suffrage.
Next on our list is the Beacon Museum in Whitehaven where they are exploring the life of Whitehaven’s Edith Brown a trailblazer in women’s healthcare and education. Watch this space….
In any event I am sure that I will be back in Keswick soon. Not only is it – to my mind – the best bus journey in England but I have a new walking book to add to my small collection.
Until next we meet,
* Warning!!! Don’t listen to ‘The March of the Women’ unless you want it in your head all day … Shout, shout up with your song… aaaaargh!