A bit of fundraising

This gallery contains 7 photos.

Originally posted on D A C Jones Blog:
So if the body holds up I’m planning on doing a few Tough Mudders this year.  I also thought I might try and raise a bit of money for Dementia research. With…

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2014 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Obituary Notice in Whitehaven News – MARCH 5th 1925

Arrangements were in hand for her removal to Glenholm Nursing Home during the period of convalescence but late on Saturday evening, a relapse ensued and Miss Shanks passed away somewhat suddenly.

The only daughter of the late James and Margaret Shanks, of Woodend, Egremont, Miss Shanks, who was of Scottish extraction, had spent most of her life in Cumberland, where up to the time of her entry to Glasgow University she was educated. Always of a studious nature, she showed marked ability and but for a somewhat delicate constitution which necessitated her giving up a public career early on in life, she would have made her mark in a much wider sphere.

Her health improved later on and she devoted herself to public usefulness in many ways and was well-known throughout Cumberland. Her contributions to “The Scottish Farmer” were much appreciated locally and for upwards of 30 years she was a regular member of the staff.

Even in hospital, during her illness, she rarely failed sending her usual weekly article. During the war period, she had charge of the landgirls in the Glasgow area and did much good work, which was a great tax on her strength and brought about a partial breakdown.
Of late years, she worked strenuously in the establishment of Women’s Institutes in Cumberland and she was on the executive committee and constantly lectured on various subjects of interest to this movement. It was through her energy and persistence that the institute in Gosforth was established and to the end, she retained her office of secretary as well as that of group convenor for the whole district.

Miss Shanks was a strong personality and of decided democratic tendencies which often brought her into conflict with many of her friends and acquaintances but she possessed many lovable characteristics which won for her troops of friends.

Under a somewhat cold exterior she had a warm and sympathetic nature for those in trouble or sorrow and her gratitude for little kindnesses shown to herself, especially during her last illness was most marked. She will be much missed in the county and district.

THE MONTHLY MEETING OF GOSFORTH WOMEN’S INSTITUTE was held recently when the president paid tribute to the memory of the late Miss Shanks who was instrumental in establishing the institute at Gosforth. Miss Shanks, the president remarked, was very talented and used her gifts to help others. She never spared herself in helping forward the cause she had at heart. At the last meeting which she attended, she appeared to be suffering great pain but up to the last always had a smile for everyone.

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The Passing of Margaret


For more than four months she had borne pain, weakness and extreme weariness with a calm determined courage that was a marvel to all who visited her in the bare hospital ward. And now she has passed beyond the veil to the great unknown. Up to the very last, her mind and brain were as clear as ever, and her interest in humanity never waned.

She could discuss matters of general import as keenly as when in her usual state of health, and although of late her waning strength was telling its tale in her flushed cheek and eye that lacked its usual brilliance, her voice was as strong as ever. It must have been a case of the mind triumphing over bodily weakness.

It fell to my lot to collect Margaret’s few personal belongings at the hospital, less than 12 hours after she had passed away. How characteristic of her was it, that the last book she had read was Robert Smillie’s “My Life For Labour.” I could not help thinking that her’s was a life spent in labour — labour for the betterment of her fellows and how often at the expense of that strength which she should have husbanded with greater care!

Many a time has she gone long distances to engage in public work, lectures, executive committees and the like, when obviously unfit. Her high sense of duty would not allow her to give in or omit even the smallest part of the work she undertook. Her strength of character often caused many to mistake her motives, and her staunch attitude towards correct procedure in business matters was often a trial to a few. But even these were, in the end, among those who could not but admire such sterling qualities as she possessed.

Under the somewhat cold exterior there was an extremely sympathetic nature, and gratitude for trifling personal attentions was one of her chief characteristics. How often one finds this lacking now-a-days, and how much one values it when it is spontaneous as in her case.

One has often heard it said that until trouble comes you never know how many friends you possess— at least real friends. It was in the hospital ward on visiting days that they were to be found, so many of them in fact that their visits were almost too much for the patient. The end came peacefully and somewhat unexpectedly, although on my last visit, only two days before, I noticed slight changes in look and manner and a tendency to dwell on the early part of her life.

“I often picture,” she said, “the little bed where as little kiddies Bob and I used to sleep, and where mother used to come and tuck us up. I have no one to tuck me up now,” she added, somewhat regretfully.

My visit was really made to arrange for her removal to a nursing home where she would have more of the little personal attentions, she required; and which in a busy, understaffed hospital, were not forthcoming. She was quite keen about it, and after I left, wrote out a list of things which she sent next day to her landlady and which she required for her contemplated move.

The next day she had passed away — may we hope to labour in another and more congenial sphere of activity apart from the clogging influence of this mortal body.


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Obituary by the Editor – March 1925

Readers of The Scottish Farmer throughout the world will learn with profound regret that “Margaret” (formerly “Gretchen”), the writer of our “Household” column, has passed away.

Miss Shanks had been confined to a nursing establishment since October last. She underwent a serious operation, but recovery appeared to be slow. A few weeks ago, she resumed the work in which she delighted, the articles from her pen showing intellectual power undiminished.

It appears, however, that in the course of doing that work, she had contracted a chill and, in a postcard received from her no later than Friday, 27th ult., she spoke of retarded recovery. She passed away, if not suddenly, rather unexpectedly at 4.15 on Sabbath morning. She was 62 years of age.

Her funeral took place from Gosforth (Cumberland) to Egremont Cemetery on Wednesday. On account of engagements during the current week, the Editor was personally unable to attend, but the staff of this paper was represented by Miss F.A. MacNeilage. A common sentiment of profound sorrow pervades our office.

“Margaret was the daughter of James and Margaret Shanks, of Woodend, Bigrigg, Cumberland. Her father was a member of the well-known family of engineers in Barrhead and he followed the same profession. Her mother was a native of Kilmaurs Parish, Ayrshire, and much of the girlhood of “Margaret” was spent in the western shire, where she had many relatives.

It was through her brother “Robertus” who first began to send communications that we became acquainted with Miss Shanks. From that time forwards , with seldom a week’s intermission until her illness began in October last, “Margaret” addressed her weekly message to an ever-widening circle of readers. We gladly acknowledge that her contributions in no small degree were responsible for the ever increasing circulation of this journal.

We understand Miss Shanks was one of the most brilliant female students of her time. Her enfeebled health was in measure due to a nervous breakdown on the eve of graduation. It is unnecessary to tell our readers how facile was her pen, how sound her judgement, how encyclopaedic her knowledge and how exalted were her ideals.

Her moral and intellectual equipment was an enviable blend of that which is best in the traditional culture of Scotland, with the polish and refinement which come from fellowship with the masterpieces of English literature. Her thinking was accurate and her powers of mental analysis curiously acute.

Household details became beatified as they passed through the crucible of her mind. Everything about which she wrote acquired a fresh attractiveness and she excelled in reading and reproducing the mentality of the child.

Margaret had quite unusual powers as a lecturer. Twice she delivered addressses to the Glasgow and West of Scotland Agricultural Discussion Society. On both occasions she had bumper audiences. She early identified herself with the Women’s Rural Institute movement and frequently addressed institute meetings.

During the war she broke up her little home and took up duty in connection with the efforts of women to do the actual work of the farm. As has been the case with many others who excel and have excelled in literature, it cannot be claimed that Miss Shanks was equally supreme in organisation.

But,taken all in all, she served her generation more than well. She lived a life of gracious activity, toiling incessantly for the public weal and she has passed hence accompanied by the grief and regret of her bereaved relatives and a wide circle of sorrowing friends. This office mourns.

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Margaret, Spinster, Dies (March 7 1925)

Nancy (McNeilage’s daughter) writes:

“ … I have been greatly grieved to learn that “Margaret” died suddenly early on Sabbath morning. For the last four months, Margaret has been lying in Whitehaven Infirmary, making a slow and tedious recovery from a serious illness; but, although it was slow, we never doubted, nor did she, that her recovery was certain. A week or two ago, she wrote telling me she had caught a chill, and had been threatened with pleurisy, and she asked me to write the Household Column for her until she was better. Last Saturday, I had a postcard from her asking me to continue writing for another week or maybe two, as the weather was too cold to allow of her exposing her arms. I never dreamed then that the last article signed by Margaret had been written. But it was so; and with her passing The Scottish Farmer has lost one of its most brilliant contributors. In culture of style, clarity of thought and intellectual power her articles far surpassed those generally written on women’s topics. If she had not been so diffident about her own abilities, one feels sure she would have found her way into the front rank of present-day writers and would have found enthusiastic readers in a wider public. Perhaps she made her widest appeal in writing about children. Like Barrie, she possessed an almost uncanny understanding of the working of their minds. Very few writers have the gift she had of writing realistically about them. But I do not need to tell readers of The Scottish Farmer how able she was. You have been privileged to receive the fruits of her well-stored mind almost since the inception of the paper and it would be superfluous for me to tell you what you already know. The first time I met “Margaret” was when she came to lecture to the Glasgow Discussion Society, fully nine years ago. The impression I formed then was that she was a very shy and very gifted lady, and on closer acquaintance that impression deepened. All through the long weary months that she has lain in the Infirmary, there has been no word of complaint in her letters about the loneliness and exhaustion that she must have endured. Gratitude for kindness shown to her by personal friends and by friends unknown to her whose affection and esteem she had won through the medium of this column was the uppermost thought in her mind. But the uppermost thought in ours to-day is regret that we did so little to alleviate the burden she bore so bravely.


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At a cookery-school I attended, we had a whole lesson devoted to pancakes. We separated the yolks of the eggs from the whites, mixed the yolks with the flour and then added milk to form a batter. Then we beat the whites to a stiff froth till our arms ached (mine did at any rate); this was to be stirred in gently that the pancake might be very light.

The joke was (as I rubbed my aching arm) that the pancakes were not nearly so good as those I make hastily at home, with no switching of eggs at all. Mix a pinch of salt and of baking powder with the flour, and with skim milk form a batter that will run easily from the spoon; pour the mixture into a jug.

Put a piece of dripping into the frying-pan and allow it to get smoking hot; then pour in…

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The Household – February 21st 1925

As “Margaret”is not keeping so well this week, writes “Nancy, ”I am taking her place in the Household column, and here I sit with my feet on a footstool, wondering what to write to you about….

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Humans without Hips or Waists – February 1925

A friend of mine recently received a catalogue from a London firm of ladies’ tailors or costumiers accompanied by a letter. In this, they expressed their regret that they had not received any of her esteemed orders for the last two or three years, and invited her to let them know what style she wished and they would endeavour to meet her requirements.

They were confident of giving her fullest satisfaction as in the past. She replied, thanking them for the letter and catalogue, and adding that in the latter she noted illustrations of beings, whether youths or maidens she could not say, with cropped hair, no waists, and no hips, and something which might be a remnant of a skirt a yard wide.

As she was still a woman with bust and hips and rodundity of figure she did not see that they could have anything in their establishment to fit her, nor possess a tailor whose tape-measure was long enough. Again thanking them, etc., etc.

One fancies the firm would not trouble the scornful and sarcastic lady with another communication.

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Fresh Air Treatment – February 1925

The latest treatment for pneumonia is almost completely opposed to the old. During the war years it was found that pneumonia patients who, owing to exigencies of space, had their beds placed in open sheds (covered overhead from the rain, no doubt) recovered more generally and always more quickly than those housed in a closed room.

Fresh air was therefore concluded to be an important factor in aiding the lungs to resume their normal functions, and it is used as much as possible in the closed wards of a hospital. The bed is place under an open window, and the draught (as it was named to me) allowed to blow upon the patient’s head.

The temperature of the room is not allowed to rise above 58 deg. Fahr. which is two degrees lower than usual for perfect comfort in a sitting room. Though, here, it may be incidentally remarked that if one is warmly covered in bed, the breathing of a cold atmosphere is agreeable in health, and likely to be more so when there is a difficulty with breathing….

A friend of mine, newly-married, was showing me over her house, and I ventured to express some surprise at her choice of a half-tester (half canopied) bed with pretty side curtains gracing the pillow end.

“Isn’t that rather an old fashioned style?” I asked. “They are always in fashion,” was her reply, “if you want them. Not only do they look well and stately, but I have had so much to do with sickness (she had nursed her mother and father) that I like these curtains to protect the head from draughts.”

Astonishing! I thought to myself. That was in the days of my youth, but the gospel of fresh air, open windows, and untrammelled beds was much preached by the new school of doctors, and I was very keen on it.

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