Originally published in the Bicester Herald, 6th January 1911.
Seventy years odd have elapsed since the old folks of Bicester first met in an annual happy re-union, and the old institution is as popular as ever. At the annual dinner on Wednesday last there was a slightly larger attendance than last year. Two hundred invitations to the dinner at the Corn Exchange were issued, and of these about 110 accepted, whilst dinners were sent out to the remainder, who were too infirm to attend. The inmates of the Workhouse who were able to attend were conveyed to and from the Corn Exchange by brake. Grace was said before and after the meal by the Vicar, the Rev. Walter O’Reilly.
It was a gathering which gladdened the hearts not only of the partakers of the bounteous feast, which, by the way, is provided by subscription, but also those who were privileged to assist.
Mr and Mrs Drover, of the Crown Hotel, Bicester, again provided an excellent repast, and did everything possible for the comfort of the guests.
Mr J. Campin presided, and those who assisted in the carving and waiting included: Messrs T. Grimsley, J.W. Grimsley, H. Swell, S.F. Smith, W. Davey, W. Grimsley, A. King, F.W. Saunders, W.E. Pankhurst, E.A. Palmer, J. Wood, H. Elliott, J. Walker, R. Smith, E. Dagley, Mrs F.W. Saunders, Miss Lord, Miss Sulston, Miss Boddington, Mrs Dunn, Mrs A.J. Parsons, Miss B. Harris, Miss D. Harris, Miss J. Mann, Masters E.R. Grimsley, C. And A. Drover, W. Coggins, Miss Pankhurst, Misses Drover (2), Misses Mountain (3), Misses Smith (2), Misses Palmer (2), Miss D. Keepeace.
The Chairman wished the company a happy and prosperous new year.
Mr Campin then gave the toast of “The King and Queen,” and stated this was a time-honoured toast at that gathering. Since their last gathering they had lost the best king who had ever graced the throne of England. King Edward VII was given the title of Peace-maker, and rightly so; and no higher name could be given to any monarch. King Edward had left them a legacy in his example as peace-maker, and another legacy in his son, who was so worthy to follow his noble father, a son who had promised to follow in the footsteps of his father. King George V had already won golden opinions, and his consort, too, had gained golden opinions. They hoped their King and Queen would not only have a long life, but a happy and prosperous one. With that toast he should also like to drink to the health of Queen Alexandra and the rest of the Royal Family.
The company rose and sang a verse of the National Anthem.
Duet - Pretty Polly Hopkins - Misses Doris and Kathleen Mountain.
Song - Richard the First - Mr F.W. Saunders.
Song - Poor Old Nigger - Miss K. Sulston.
Song - True Till Death - Mr E. Dealey.
Song - Old Albin’s a Coming - Mr Rawlings.
The Chairman said he now had to propose what he considered the toast of the day, because if they could not have that toast they could not have the dinner, for the healths he asked them to drink were those of the subscribers and donors to the dinner fund. He was very pleased to say that the subscribers and the donors remained the same as for so many years passed. The committee had no difficulty in getting the money; the principal difficulty seemed to be to get the old folks to sing. They were very grateful to those who subscribed towards the dinner fund, people who were most anxious that the old people should have their dinner annually. Last year he spoke rather warmly in comparing the number of invitations sent out with those which were accepted. This year 106 had sat down to dinner, and 59 dinners had been sent out. They were, he should like to state, anxious to get a company of about 150. - The toast was received with musical honours.
The Nigger Troupe, in their gay costumes, then gave a pleasing variety entertainment. The artistes were Misses Kathleen Mountain, Doris Mountain, Dorothy Drover, and Marjory Tompkins. Their songs were “The Nigger Song” and “Good-bye,” and these were accompanied by dances. The youthful performers were enthusiastically encored, and repeated “The Nigger Song.”
Song - Mistletoe Bough - Mr J.W. Grimsley.
Song - John Peel - Mr H. Swell.
Mr T. Grimsley proposed “The Bicester Hunt,” and said they all knew what fox hunting did for Bicester and the neighbourhood. They had a noble Master in Mr J.P. Heywood Lonsdale, who had been with them for about twelve years, and they hoped he would continue Master for many years to come.
Song - Mrs Parker.
Song - Red, White and Blue - Mr C. Hatfield.
Gramophone selection - Mr G.A. Mackenzie.
Nigger songs by Nigger Troupe.
Song - Hearts of Oak - Mr E. Dagley.
Song - The Song that Reaches My Heart - Mr J. Wood.
Song - Tin Gee-Gee - Mr F.W. Saunders.
Gramophone selection - Mr Mackenzie.
Mr J.W. Grimsley proposed “The Host and Hostess,” who had provided the most important part of the day’s programme. They had all appreciated the good things placed on the tables. - Musical honours.
Mr Drover said he was happy to welcome his old friends again, and he hoped that they might all be spared for many years to attend that annual dinner. He wished them all a happy new year.
Song - When You and I Were Young, Maggie - Mr Arthur King.
Song - Sitting by the Fireside - Mr A. Blencowe.
Mr T. Grimsley submitted “The Chairman,” and referred to the many years Mr Campin had taken a leading part in that gathering. He hoped Mr Campin would attend their annual gathering for many years to come. - Musical honours.
Mr Campin said he was very much obliged to the company for drinking his health. He had now attended that dinner for 35 or 36 years, and none of that original committee, with the exception of himself, were alive. He could not expect to be with them much longer, but as long as he was able to come he would do so. He was sure there would always be a committee ready to continue the old custom.
Mr W. Pitts, on behalf of the guests, proposed “The Committee.” - Musical honours.
The Chairman said the committee were only too willing to do what they could for that dinner. It was a great pleasure to them.
A very convivial gathering concluded with the singing of “Auld Lang Syne” and “God Save the King.”