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Saturday, 04 July 2015

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Annie takes pride of place at carnival

WHITEHAVEN Carnival promises to be an extra special event this year as key organisers, Whitehaven Lions, will be celebrating their 40th anniversary.

To mark the milestone they are bringing together as many as possible of the past Carnival Queens, each sporting a sash with the year they were queen.

When she put out an appeal for all former queens to come forward Lions’ president-elect Esther Clements hadn’t expected a call from 95-year-old Annie Jeffery of Thornhill. Mrs Jeffery had been Whitehaven’s second carnival queen way back in 1931 and had the photos to prove it!

Back in 1931, when Margaret Annie Benn was a teenage girl, she was chosen to be Whitehaven Hospital Carnival Queen.

What an honour for a 13-year-old and one not to be taken lightly for Annie, as she was only the second ever carnival queen the town had had.

Annie, now Mrs Jeffery and aged 95, still keeps fond memories of the time she was queen for a day.

Whitehaven’s first carnival queen in 1930 had been Rene Clayton (later Mrs Ellis), the daughter of Mr Clayton, and who passed on the crown to Annie the following June.

The carnival had been started up to raise funds for Whitehaven Hospital in pre-NHS days and was to become a popular annual summer event, still going today.

However, the scheduled 1931 procession for June 6 had to be put back a week because of the weather....it poured down and Annie’s beautiful horse-drawn float of pink and white crepe paper and retinue of 10 attendants and two velvet-clad paiges was about to be ruined.

The following Saturday, June 13, things were much brighter and the carnival processed through the town in good style up to the Castle Hospital, with Annie taking centre stage.

It all happened over 70 years ago but Annie remembers the day well. “I was a bit nervous, but I enjoyed it. I remember the others on the float were all children from my school. My brother Billy led the horse and dad was carrying my baby sister who is 12 years younger than me.

“In the photo, taken in the Castle grounds, my mother is leaning out of the upper floor window, watching events from there. I recall my auntie, who lived at Littleborough in Lancashire made my dress.’’

Annie had turned 13 the previous month. Her parents, John and Ellie Benn farmed at Caulderton House and would hold whist drives and other events to raise funds for the hospital.

Annie’s dad had lost an eye in a pit accident at Beckermet ore mines so they were always keen to support the hospital.

The children on Annie’s float were: Henry Graham, Marion Hale, John Shortridge, Joan Gr-een, Joan Butler, Edwin Corrie, Josie Scott, Jimmy Long, Alvina Corrie, Gladys Graham, Elsie Scott and Daisy Lewthwaite. Sadly, Annie is the only one in the photo still living.

In 1941 Annie married Richard Jeffery at St Bees Priory. The couple had two sons and a daughter and Annie now has six grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

Esther Clements has been thrilled with the response to her appeal and eight former carnival queens have come forward, including Mrs Jeffery. They are: 1974 Jayne Chapman; 1980 Yvonne Campbell; 1988 Tracey Guise; 1994 Mandy Lowrey; 2008 Katie Boag; 2010 Jorgie Bell; and 2011 Whitney Bell. Poppy Crowe will represent her late mother Mandy Crowe who was carnival queen in 1975.

  • See The Whitehaven News for a full preview of this year's carnival
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