What does community mean to you? A trip to Pirbright village in Surrey revealed a connected community.
At the Pirbright Scarecrow Festival last weekend, the Pirbright Historians had a brilliant display of local family history and the Pirbright history during WW1.
A few Pirbright families shared their family history and the Historians displayed their stories with images on the boards.
I got to learn about my mother-in-law’s grandfather on this day. On one of the boards, my mother-in-law Judy remembered her “very tall, very stern grandfather”.
“My grandfather, John Brining Roberts, was born in January 1897, in Liverpool. My sister and I always called him John – never Grandad, that wasn’t allowed.
We were told that he had been a Test Pilot in WW1, but it was only recently, thanks to Jonathan Foster of Pirbright Historians, that I learnt he was in fact in the Royal Naval Air Service, which amalgamated with the RAF in 1918. His service record recounts in March 1918 that he was a ‘very good pilot, good officer, recommended for seaplane patrol’ but added somewhat pithily that he was ‘rather erratic’.”
I also got to learn that my son’s great-great-gradfather later became very important and he held a senior position at the Liverpool Docks and Harbour Board.
My mother-in-law wrote:
“He must have been VERY IMPORTANT, because my grandmother did launch a ship or two, resplendent in her mink.”
Many villagers took part in the Scarecrow Festival. For example, my mother-in-law spent days and nights putting together an impressive 20-page festival programme, and she also helped at a tombola stall. My father-in-law, my husband and my son were later summoned by my mother-in-law to help tidy up Pirbright Green after the event.
The Pirbright Scarecrow Festival inspired me to think about the meaning of community spirit.
The festival wasn’t just a normal fun-filled family day-out. It was considered a quintessential English event in Surrey. Adding the local history and allowing local families to share their family stories helped connect the villagers and form a strong bond amongst them. Through their engaging stories, you get to know the people in the same community more deeply. It was such a meaningful thing to do.
We had lovely barbecue, watched falconry displays, and thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful voices from Pirbright Singers. I also learnt about local history, family history, and the quirky sense of humour of the villagers through many of their life-like scarecrow displays (especially the macabre tale in the Murder in the Cathedral scarecrow tableau created by the Pirbright church).
Running such a meaningful, traditional event in Pirbright village in support of the 800-year-old Pirbright Church, a symbol of the local community, was definitely not easy. The villagers’ ingenuity with their scarecrows, the Historians’ display of astonishing stories that connect the past and present, and the dedication of many villagers made the Pirbright Scarecrow Festival truly amazing and memorable.
Can we learn something from Pirbright village when we organise our community events in Chandler’s Ford? The villagers who organised the Scarecrow Festival in Pirbright engaged the whole village through entertainment, creativity, imagination, and also storytelling, with passion and dedication. The lovely summer day left an indelible memory for all who visited Pirbright last weekend.