For the last few years the East Devon Ladies have enjoyed a very convivial morning out every six to eight weeks or so. The programme follows a similar format each time. They ring for an hour at a selected tower and then go on to have coffee and a cake, or a sticky bun, (sometimes both), at some convenient watering hole. Then after a chat about this and that they are ready to move on to the second tower of the morning to ring for another hour. This is a brilliantly supportive group, helping each other to improve their ringing and often introducing to the less experienced new methods to widen their repertoire.
On a recent visit to Whimple tower, just as they were about to pull off, the lone male, (on rare occasions the odd man is included), called 'Stop! You are all improperly dressed'. As you can imagine, this caused no little consternation. The explanation was that on the wall of the ringing chamber hangs a photograph of an all ladies band from the 1920's and all are dressed very properly with long skirts and hats. This was a far cry from today's sweatshirt, jeans and flipflops, but it is unlikely that the ladies in 1920 had ever heard of such attire! As a result the modern ladies decided that for their next outing they too would wear hats the long skirts were optional, not compulsory. All went well as they appeared in a variety of headgear, some of extreme design. All was well in fact until, just as the picture was to be taken, one lady was forced to chase after her 'fascinator' as the wind whipped it away. As one male onlooker remarked 'well, half a chicken would fly away if it could'.
I leave you with the ancient and modern photographs for you to decide which era was the most elegant. As an aside, in my youth any woman not wearing a hat in church was to be frowned upon and the vicar would almost certainly have had something to say about it. Conversely every gentleman was expected to remove his hat before entering church. I have never heard a clear explanation as to why this convention arose, nor when and why it appears to have been abandoned. I'm sure somewhere among the readership we have an expert who will explain all.
Reported by 'Fly on the Wall'