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05/11/2011: The Marmalade Mafia - Making Old Folk Dance on Bonfire Night

Ahhhh! Bonfire night again, which takes me back to one of the most notorious episodes in the history of the so called Marmalade Mafia. This group of ladies formed the core of all committees locally, from the WI and Townswomen's Guild to the under 12's gymkhana. The movement was so named largely though due to their stranglehold on the WI presence at local fetes, where non members never got a chance to show off their kitchen prowess, especially if it outshone the output of one of the inner sanctum.

The main players in this group all appear in this photograph of a 1963 meeting of the Farkham Ladies Pipesmoking Circle where all concerned are having a whale of a time, not least of all my good mother. Irene, Mrs I Farkham, wife of the 17th Squire Farkham, who is the lady laughing enthusiastically sitting on a bar stool to the right of the scene. Key figures to watch out for are Victoria (Sponge Fingers) Trafalgar, the serious looking lady in dark top sitting in a low chair, opposite my mother. Next to Mrs Trafalgar to her left is Marjorie (Macca) Roones whose story will be told in good time. Moving to Macca Roones left again is the glamorous Julia (Just Jams) Johnston, wife of Justice James Johnston JP. No, I'm not repeating his qualification, Justice was his first name. It seemed fated that he should enter the law as a profession. Subsequent events of November 1963 almost brought that distinguished career to an end.

Of particular interest in this scene is the next person moving in that direction, Deirdre (Dundee Cake) Tynne.

Much of this jollity is due to the input of said Deirdre Tynne. The thing is that in early 1960s Britain, very few people knew anything of hydroponic horticulture. Apart, that is, from Mrs Deirdre (Dundee Cake) Tynne. For some time she 'managed' the tobacco supplies for the FLPC, who were unknowingly having a better time at their meetings than they bargained for. This gave the good Mrs Tynne a nice sideline in extortion and a little blackmail of fellow members whose tongues, not to mention whose morals became considerably looser under her tenure as Keeper of the Pot. If only the ladies knew how they had unwittingly chosen a more than apt name for the officer of the club who made sure there was tobacco enough to go round.

Sadly for Deirdre, her plans came a little unglued when her husband, Leden Tynne, became somewhat suspicious. This was due largely through an electricity bill that had spiralled out of control, along with the new found humour and unaccustomed sexual appetite of his wife. Deirdre knew that if she didn't act quickly the game would be up. Her entire harvest was cut down and the evidence destroyed by making a huge batch of cakes for distribution to the elderly and needy of the parish through the Meals on Wheels service, also controlled by the Marmalade Mafia. To explain the rising energy costs, the illegal crop was replaced with a huge batch of tomato plants purchased in Far Kingtown to avoid any gossip in the local nursery store.

Had Deirdre thought this plan through, she would have seen that there was a small but vital flaw in it. For the coming week, the Accident and Emergency department in Farkam University King's Infirmary (Teaching), was packed to the gunwhales with halucinating geriatrics. Many suffered appalling injuries through attempting physical feats that they hadn't even dreamed of in years. Local police found all leave cancelled and spent their time trawling the area for anyone looking dazed, confused while dancing naked round a bonfire wearing only a body that needed a good ironing.

The worst casualty was the Holdspeare family. Old Ted Holdspeare was convinced that the episode caused the demise of his wife, Winifred. When interviewed all he could do was keep repeating that it just wasn't natural for a woman of 92 to spend that amount of time naked in the garden dancing the rites of spring, especially not in November. No charges relating to the death were brought, but Ted joined Winifred on her jounrey to the Summer Lands before she was even in the ground. To this day, old Farkham residents still claim he died of a broken heart.

The ramifications of this night shook the foundations of local society and left nobody unaffected, but that as they say, is another story.

See more news items in our blog.

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