I wonder if any readers recall the wartime event of the Hinckley and District Red Cross Sale on 'The High Close’, Barwell on September 19th 1942. Harry Bevin drew my attention to this sale which gave some relief from the dark days of war and helped raise funds for the Red Cross in its multitude of activities, including help to P.O.W.s. The sale was held at a time when the German assault on Stalingrad had just begun and before the victory of El Alamein brought a turning point in the War. Those who visited the sale, opened by the Duchess of Rutland, gave generously and enjoyed the day so far as Harry Bevin could recall.
The Committee which organised the event on behalf of the Agricultural Red Cross Fund had Mr. J.M. Fox as Chairman and Mr. F.H. Bevin as Secretary and thus the programme has survived, preserved by the Secretary to the present day. Raffle items reflected the privations of war. They included, ‘A Bottle of Ketchup donated by Sapcote Young Farmers’. This rare delicacy might be won by purchasing a 1d.ticket and would enhance any set of rations. C. Wilkins gave a priceless item for local children in the shape of 'One Month’s Sweet Ration’, tickets only 2d.
In the days when farming folk were accustomed to dealing in guineas (£1. 5p« or 21 shillings), donations ranged from 20 guineas, a very considerable sum, to 1 shilling. Items in terms of household produce for sale included a torch, given by Matkin's and an anonymously donated mystery bottle. One can only speculate, nearly half a century later, on the effect which the contents had on the winner’. Perhaps the donor or the winner could enlighten the editor? The number of bunches of home grown grapes donated was considerable, not quite matched by sets of car and tractor plugs.
Calves, store pigs, sheep and poultry were all donated for sale by many families still engaged in agriculture in the area today. C.S. Arrow smith for example donated 'Three L.S. Pullets' and F.H, Bevin 'a Gilt in the Store Pig Section'. The weight-guessing competition involving horse, pig and sheep were a prominent feature of the day with the first prize a bottle of whisky, the first reference to alcohol in an apparently rather sober sale although one other bottle of whisky was raffled, tickets costing the princely sum of one shilling.
An interesting item under household produce caught my eye, whereby Mr. W.C. Woodward offered 'Free examination and a pair of spectacles (value 50 shillings)’ for the short-sighted visitor as an end to the perfect Wake Saturday Sale.
(My thanks to Mr. Harry Bevin for first helping to organise the sale in 1942 and providing me with the catalogue in 1989).
Author: Hugh Beavin
Written for: Hinckley Historian Magazine