SWI set to mark its centenary birthday

The 70th anniversary celebrations of the Pathhead SWI back in 1988.
The 70th anniversary celebrations of the Pathhead SWI back in 1988.
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Pathhead SWI will next month become the first women’s institute in Midlothian to reach its 100th birthday.

The group was founded on February 12, 1918 to give local women something to do during the First World War. And on the same date this year the club will mark its centenary with a special dinner at Oxenfoord Castle.

Picture from the Advertiser in 1998 of the 80th birthday celebrations for the Pathhead SWI.

Picture from the Advertiser in 1998 of the 80th birthday celebrations for the Pathhead SWI.

Club president Mary Ramsay said: “It’s a marvellous milestone. We have not got many members because there are the Cranston and Pathhead groups here.

“It was started during the war because women didn’t go out anywhere. They started doing things for the men in the war. They used to get scraps of leather and make gloves.

“A lot has changed in 100 years. A lot of the institutes have closed. The one in Dalkeith had more than 40 members but it closed recently because they couldn’t get a committee. There was once four SWIs in Bonnyrigg alone. With a waiting list at Poltonhall, but it was the first to close as nobody wanted to join the committee.”

The Pathhead group’s first public meeting took place on March 26, 1918, at Remote Farm, Pathhead, with Mrs Chalmers-Watson opening the meeting speaking of “women’s opportunity”. A total of 37 members were enrolled that evening.

The club’s current president, herself a member for 50 years, is looking forward to the 100th birthday at Oxenfoord Castle. Mary said: “I’m trying to organise it at the moment. I want to make it special. We have about 26 people coming, including some of the officials from the national group, as well as the chairperson, secretary and treasurer from the Midlothian group.

“It should be a great night.”

Mary is keen to encourage more women to join her group.

She said: “We meet once a month. We have a speaker or we go out for a meal, something interesting every month. But yet it’s hard to get people to come along.

“We are now trying to take the SWI forward, trying to get modern. We have had different things to get more members, like cheese and wine nights.

“We have got 12 members at the moment. We used to have a lot more. We have three new members, but it’s very difficult. Younger people have a lot of things on so they can’t come along.

“I feel now that we have reached 100 we can’t just do that and next year say we are closing. We have to keep trying to get more people to join us.”

Mary, herself a member of Pathhead SWI for 50 years, has many happy memories of her time at the club, including winning a competition for her madeira cake.

She said: “I once won for my madeira cake, out of 25 people, I was shocked.

“I was delighted to win, that sticks out in my mind.

“That was a long time ago, about 30 years ago. It’s still a very happy memory.”

To find out more about joining Pathhead SWI, call 01875 321 032.