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Tag: St Helena Association

Owen George

55 years of the St Helena Association (UK)

By Owen George MBE

The St Helena Association was the brainchild of two headmistresses from St Helena, Mrs Lilian Corker and Miss Cardwell – a Saint and an ex-pat respectively. They were supported by another retired teacher, Miss Nel Lebreton, and Mr Fred (Sonny) Ward, who were also Saints. They decided in the latter part of 1959 that something ought to be done by our UK Saints to entertain people coming from the island to seek employment and support their families back home.

Having been inspired by pictures shown by Fred Ward, they contacted as many Saints as possible in and around London to convene an informal meeting.

I was approached by Fred Ward in Reading in November 1959, a month after I arrived here in the UK, to ask if I would support the idea. I agreed, and became a member at the association’s inaugural meeting in London in January 1960. As enthusiastic, loyal, patriotic and fun-loving people, we soon became established as The St Helena Association.

A non-political constitution was drawn up, with the objective to support charitable organisations on the island for Saints in need, and individuals who merited it.

But our first priority was to entertain Saints who immigrated, and those here on holiday. The knock-on effect from that was to start organising dances, the first of which was held in Victoria Hall in Bloomsbury Square, London.

We also decided to introduce an annual membership fee in order to accumulate revenue, but this did not work in practice. With membership growing fast and furious, collecting the fees became an arduous task for the secretary and treasurer, who already had full-time work, and so after three years it was abandoned.

The loss of this income put more emphasis on organising extra dances, one in spring, and one in autumn.

With increasing support, it became obvious a larger hall was necessary, and Hammersmith Town Hall became our new venue.

On reflection, 1964 was a year of radical changes. Cyril Brooks became our third chairman and presided for 24 years. The vice chairman’s post was created, and I was elected, and accompanied our chairman throughout that period.

Because the attendance for our London dances was increasing, I had a brain-wave to increase the sequence by organising an SHA branch dance in Reading. This caused some concern with our committee members, but our secretary and treasurer (the late Bert Joshua) saw it as progress.

Since this was a success, I encouraged other Saints to organise dances in their own districts, not only to support our London and Reading dances, but to sustain the continuity within our community. It would provide for people who could not attend the main dances, especially our students here on training and Saints coming on holiday, and it would enhance support to our island’s charitable organisations.

My theory was to work with the people, for the people, and I have the satisfaction of seeing that is still embraced today.

In the same year I decided to record Christmas messages for St Helena at our autumn dances on reel-to-reel tapes, and called the programme Keeping In Touch. The tapes were sent home to a friend, William (Billy) Stevens, who transmitted them on Christmas Day after the Queen’s Speech.

(Billy Stevens, known as The Ham of Half Tree Hollow, broadcast from the Three Tanks area every Sunday morning, charging three pence for a request. His role as a radio pioneer is mentioned in an article on the Saint Helena Island Info website).

Some years later Radio St Helena was formed, and took over the Keeping In Touch programme. For a short spell, Eddie Leo and his wife Audrey assisted with the programme.

It provided an important opportunity for Saints to keep in touch with their relatives, but when the internet became available, it was made redundant.

After 16 years, Hammersmith Town Hall became unavailable, and for a while we were organising dances in Fulham and Early town halls, but shortly they also became unavailable.

By then, our five branch organisers were also putting on dances, and with our annual Sports Day, contributions for St Helena were not affected.

In 1978 I made plans to entertain the children within our community, because they were restricted to accompanying their parents at our dances. If successful, it would be another source of revenue to support our objectives.

So on Sunday on the August Bank Holiday weekend of 1979, I organised our first St Helena Sports Day at the Reading Rugby Football Club.

I had no committee except my family to organise the mini sports, and on the day I employed volunteers – mostly former boy scouts from St Helena and some of the branch organisers. What started as the Saints’ Mini Sports Day became St Helena Sports Day, also sentimentally known as the Saints, Relatives and Friends Reunion Day.

I ran it for ten years, then invited our committee to continue. All went well for a while, then for diverse reasons our supporters began to lose interest and the situation was becoming serious. But from 2010 the expertise of Trevor and Vilma Toms came to the fore, and they revitalised this nostalgic event, recapturing the interest of our supporters here and beyond these shores.

In April 1986, our secretary and treasure took ill and was told by his doctor to retire from all activities with immediate effect. This could not have happened at a worse time, because for divers reasons other people found they could not continue. That situation left just the chairman and me.

I was given charge of our accounts and everything else related to the secretary-cum-treasurer’s post.

We were on the threshold of becoming dormant, and this was the time that showed the importance of the branch organisers, because without them we could not maintain our objectives. The only support for our island was coming from their dances, and of course Sports Day functions.

I kept in touch without our chairman to see if any people came forward to stand as committee members. Unfortunately, two years elapsed and the situation did not change, so I put forward a plan to try for the last time to recruit.

I took the opportunity at a dance in Cirencester to contact people there, and explained that our association would become history if we could not get enough people to join our committee.

Eight people responded, and with the help of Derek Bellord I immediately arranged to convene a meeting a month later in Portsmouth. The result is that we are here today.

Prior to that meeting our chairman decided not to stand again, and I was elected to fill the void. I accepted the post on the understanding that I would be looking for a replacement after one term, because I wanted a free hand to practise any theory I might have that would enhance our community of Saints, relatives and friends even further.

I was successful in convincing Keith Joshua to become our new chairman, and I was subsequently elected as president.

As time moved on we progressed from strength to strength, and became a registered charity.

I consider myself to have been fortune to be in a position to develop our association, but there can be no development without a beginning, and we thank the people who dreamt of such a plan in November 1959.

I resigned because of ill health, but with the satisfaction of knowing our committee will keep that dream alive, maintain our objectives, and continue to put smiles on sad faces back home.

Two St Helena Associations? That was banking on trouble…

We started out with the title SHA, and subsequently added (UK). It became necessary through a dispute with another organisation that decided it was the SHA. Both treasurers were summoned by the bank to get it sorted, because there were problems when donations were made by cheque.

Naturally, emergency meetings were convened by both parties, and it was mutually agreed that a representative from each would attend the other’s meeting, and after some discussion, I was elected.

I attended their AGM in Faith House, in Tufton Road in London, and the matter was sorted, but not before discussions to convince their chairman, who was adamant about not changing – until I pointed out that our inauguration was in January 1960, and theirs in April 1964.

To settle the argument, my friend Bishop Edward (Ted) Cannan suggested, “Since we solely support the Diocese of St Helena, why don’t we change our title to St Helena Diocesan Association, and perhaps Owen’s association will change to SHA (UK)?”

Both parties agreed, and so did the bank.

Ironically I became a member of the SHDA, and their chairman and I became the best of pals.

Owen A George

St Helena Association (UK!) – website
Reading Sports – picture galleries and stories
Radio on St Helena –

Pictures bring back the holiday fun

children's medals 2 640The summer holidays have come to an end for UK school children but one last gallery of images should bring back happy memories of the 2014 Reading Sports. Click here to flick through 68 pictures – cheerful and cheeky – of the children’s medal presentations.

children's medals 640 3SEE ALSO:
Gallery 1: Fancy Dress
Gallery 2: Seen at the Sports
Gallery 3: Children’s races
Gallery 4: Teen races
Gallery 5: Adult races
Gallery 6: Inflatable fun

Plus: Donald whizzes from Oz for ‘brilliant’ Reading Sports (report)

Donald whizzes from Oz for ‘brilliant’ Reading Sports

reading sports flag 640The organisers of the Reading Sports must be doing something right – because Donald Joshua came all the way from Australia to attend.

Donald – whose brother Brian still lives on St Helena – was one of more than 1,500 people who turned out for the annual UK gathering of Saints and their friends and families.

The organisers have been basking in the success of the event after taking a bold decision to move to a new venue at Reading Abbey Rugby Club.

The campsite filled up
The campsite filled up

Vilma Toms, secretary of the St Helena Association, said the high turn-out would mean bigger donations to charities back home.

She said: “It was absolutely brilliant. We had so much positive feedback from everybody.

“First of all, so much more space we had, and the fact that they could party all night should they want to.

“They enjoyed the club house, the disco, everything. It was a real party atmosphere.”

Staff from the rugby club and the inflatable rides were also enthusiastic about the event, said Vilma.

“The bouncy castle people said they’d love to come again because people were friendly and everybody was happy. The people in the rugby club are over the moon. They couldn’t do enough to help us. They just said, ‘The ground is yours, do what you like’.”

Click for fancy dress images
Click for fancy dress images

There was much more entertainment for children than in previous years, including bouncy castles, an inflatable obstacle course, a rodeo ride, and zorbing – rolling around inside giant transparent balls.

Some of the rides attracted just as many adults as children.

But while the races went ahead as usual – with adults required to run with balloons between their legs in the egg and spoon event – one traditional fixture was missing.

No one was willing to put up a team against the defending tug o’war champions, who were awarded the winners’ crate of beer without having to pull for it.

Perhaps they were all too busy zorbing.

Attendance was up on 2013, with about 1,100 paying adults and an estimated 500 children.

“More people were camping as well, so the party atmosphere started on Saturday and carried all the way through until three o’clock on Monday morning,” said Vilma.

Zorbing: click for a gallery
Zorbing: click for a gallery

Nick Stevens, who had travelled to the UK with the island’s Commonwealth Games team, manned the Enterprise St Helena stall, encouraging Saints to consider returning home to help build a new economy.

In the case of Pamela Ward Lees, departing chair of the Friends of St Helena, no persuasion was needed: she and partner Andy were at the sports to say farewell to friends before heading out to settle in Longwood (and make cakes).

The event itself took place in brilliant sunshine, but those who stayed on until bank holiday Monday had to take their tents down in heavy rain.

Hundreds of pictures were posted on Facebook by Paul George and official photographers Jessica Osborne and Emily Braden.

The association is supporting the same island charities as last year, including the arts and crafts group, the family support group and Father Dale Bowers’ fund for vulnerable people.

Facebook comments: 

Plenty of entertainment: click for gallery
Plenty of entertainment: click for gallery

Ronnie Benjamin Joshua: What an absolutely fantastic bank holiday weekend!!! Thank you all, a whole bunch of lovely family and friends in one place!

David Peters: What a great day on Sunday. Reading sports day was fantastic. Many thanks to the organisers St Helena Association for a great job and great venue. Clean toilets, plenty of parking, friendly staff, and most of all, so good to see so many familiar faces. It’s like a day of an analogue version of Facebook. Thanks for re-uniting us with long lost friends and relatives.

Patrick George: Thank you St Helena Association for making it all happen. I know a lot of blood, sweat, tears and possibly sleepless nights went into the preparation. It was my first time ever and I feel like I made history for myself. Met old school friends, family and people I didn’t know except they knew my late parents Eric and Ivy George.

Monica Yon: I would like to say a huge thank you to the St Helena Association for all their hard work and making such a wonderful entertaining day for all of us. I thoroughly enjoyed it and meeting everyone, well most people as I miss so many I would have love to chat and laugh with. Such a lovely turn-out too, and great location. Thank you.

Carryn Jones: Another fantastic weekend that was well worth the long drive from Aberdeen. Love the new venue!! Thoroughly enjoyed catching up with friends and family.

Children's races: click for gallery
Children’s races: click for gallery

Ursula Harris: I would like to say a MASSIVE THANK YOU to the St Helena Association for all the hard work that went into organising another memorable Sports Day.

Rio Duncan-Prasetyo: Thank you for an awesome long weekend! The foods, music, sports, hospitality….and the weather (how lucky). The committee are friendly, helpful and hard working. The Reading Rugby club staff – thank you so much for welcoming us.

Joanne Tori Bowers: Had a wonderful day at Reading Sport. St Helena Association always do their best to make our sports day special and great job for making everyone come together. Unfortunately that was my last sports day but it has been really good for all the years I have been going and good luck in future (Joanne is returning home).

Trevor Toms: Big thanks to the few people who help us – Renee and Rio Prasetyo and Larry Hudson for running the sports events – what a brilliant job they did. Thanks also to Felicity Walters, Darlene Peters, Lorraine Duncan and Pat Harris for helping us on the day. Special thanks to James Miller for all his help and enthusiasm. Grateful thanks also to Leon Miller for all his help. Thanks to Phil and Paul for the entertainment on Saturday night, and to Phil for the amazing disco on Sunday night – loved the lights and the smoke – cool!!. Thanks to the Brooks Brothers and Sawdust for giving us great entertainment in the clubhouse.

Gallery 1: Fancy Dress
Gallery 2: Seen at the Sports
Gallery 3: Children’s races
Gallery 4: Teen races
Gallery 5: Inflatable fun



Try out new Sports venue at St Helena dance

2013 10 SHA dance 640 A St Helena dance night on 12 October 2013 will give Saints a chance to try out the new venue for the annual Reading Sports.

Click the image to see a larger-size poster
Click the image to see a larger-size poster

The St Helena Association decided to move the annual UK gathering of Saints after 34 years of hosting it at Reading Rugby Club’s ground in Sonning.

The new venue at Abbey Rugby Club in nearby Emmer Green will allow celebrations to carry on into the early hours of the morning.

It also offers cheaper bar prices, better catering facilities, and access to toilets and showers through the night.

The association’s St Helena Day Dance has been booked for the same venue for Saturday 24 May 2014.

Interestingly, 24 May was celebrated as Empire Day in the UK between 1904 and 1958 – marking the birthday of Queen Victoria.

SEE ALSO: Reading Sports in pictures

New gallery: faces of the Reading Sports

640 people 0214The latest gallery from the 2013 Reading Sports captures the best of the big event – the faces of lots of people having a really great time.

300 people 0118Nearly 2,000 turned out for the annual UK gathering of Saints, relatives and friends, and many feature in the final 100 pictures from the August Bank holiday celebrations.

Click here to view them.

You’re welcome to re-post pictures on Facebook, but please link to this page.

Reading Sports galleries – the full list:
Fancy dress, children’s races, teens’ races, adults’ races, medal winners, tug of war, faces

Re-live the fun of Reading Sports – or else

fancy dress cowgirl 640When a cowgirl tells you to stick ’em up, it’s best to oblige – and we have, by sticking up a few hundred great pictures of the 2013 Reading Sports.

The sun shone and nearly 2,000 people had a great weekend at the annual gathering of Saints in the UK, and galleries here mean you can enjoy the big day all over again.

Just click on the images on the right or follow the links below. There’s one more gallery still to come, of faces in the crowd, so please come back to the site or sign up for updates on the St Helena Online page on Facebook.

Fancy dress
Children’s races
Teenagers’ races
Adults’ races
Tug of war
Medal winners

Richard’s pictures of Reading Sports go online – all 500 of them

A Saint pictured in reflective shades, pork pie hat and gold rings
Pork pie, anyone? Oh no – it’s a hat. Picture: Richard Bennett

More than 500 pictures of the annual Saint gathering have now been posted on the St Helena Association website. Richard Bennett’s shots capture the action in the races at Reading Sports, as well as the fun on the bouncy castles and rodeo rides. There are also pictures of Saints enjoying the Enterprise St Helena video link with the island. High-quality copies of Richard’s pictures can be bought through the website, here.

SEE ALSO: Reading Sports in pictures and interviews – St Helena Online

All the fun of the Reading Sports – in pictures and interviews

Saints came from as far as Florida – and St Helena – for the annual Reading Sports in the UK. Click on the links below to see nearly 200 pictures from the day, and listen to the best of several interviews recorded for Saint FM by Simon Pipe of St Helena Online.

Why not click on the interviews, and then flick through the galleries as they’re playing?

Reading Sports in pictures – general shots
Reading Sports in pictures – the racing
Reading Sports in pictures – medal winners
Reading Sports in pictures – evening

Florida: Jack and Myrtle Whittaker came from America just for the Reading Sports
Lanterns for loved ones: coloured lights drift into the sky in a poignant family ceremony
A leaping Yon: there are Yons all round as runner John leaps the finishing tape
Spoons and balloons: Jamie Leo wins the adult egg and spoon race. Balloon sprint next…
Renee takes on the men: a mummy races the daddies, despite their long legs
Chicks: Jamie Benjamin explains the Saint tradition of passing on family nicknames
Gino, Natasha and Britney: Prince Charles was a neighbour, but they moved

Reading Sports in pictures – general shots

Brilliant sunshine brought a glow to the 2012 Reading Sports – the largest annual gathering of St Helenians in the UK. Click on the pictures for a flavour of the August bank holiday fun.

Reading Sports in pictures – the racing

Strangely, the adult egg and spoon race wasn’t included in the 2012 Olympics, and Jessica Ennis wasn’t required to leap about with a balloon between her knees. But that’s all part of the fun at the annual Saints’ sports day, held on the August bank holiday weekend at Reading Rugby Club. Click on the pictures to see what Olympics spectators were missing.