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1911: Club with deadly mission celebrates success at The Kings Head

Mid Sussex Times - Tuesday 21 March 1911




Farmers in and around Cuckfield attended in strong force at the Kings Head hotel on Wednesday evening, the occasion being the first annual dinner of the Cuckfield and District Sparrow Club. The wet weather did not let those who had to make a long journey by foot from outlying farms; these were the sons of the soil put on their leggings and overcoats, chose their stoutest walking sticks and set out for the headquarters of the club, where a pleasant evening awaited them. They were to celebrate the successful conclusion of the first season of the club, and some of them had several hundred sparrows deaths to their credit, and were conscious of having helped, to a certain degree, the object for which the Cuckfield and district sparrow club was formed – that of exterminating sparrows in the district covered by the Club.

That genial Scotsman, Mr James McFarlane, chairman of the club presided at the dinner, and among those present we noted Messrs A. Beeching, I. Quickenden, G. Black junior, S. Pierce, F. Webber, R. Pratt, W. Packham, W. Gander, E. Gander, W. Fry (honorary secretary), A. Fry, see. Hobson, J. Bone, H. Higgins, C. Avery, C. Avery, Junior, E. Morfee, H. Newman, G. Smith, T. Webber, J. Pratt, F.Pix, B.Pix, W.Myram, C.Sayers, H.Upton (2), A. Eastlea, W.Glyde, T.W.Norman, H.Caffyn, B.Jones, A. Hillman (2), G.Bunting, A. Batchelor, H.Burt, J.Atkinson, Barton (2), A Farrow and others.

Host and hostess Morfee had provided a capital spread, the fair being after a farmers own heart – wholesome and plentiful.

After full justice had been done, the loyal toast was honoured at the call of the chairman, and after a few songs Mr W. Fry (honorary secretary) read out the items of the balance sheet.

Receipts amounted to £5 and 14 shillings and expenditure to £2.01 shilling 9 1/2 d, leaving a balance in hand of £3.12 shillings 2 1/2 d. The number of sparrows heads brought in by members were:- F. Webber 411, J.Macfarlane 319, J.Pratt 310, E. Gander 263, T. Quickenden 263, T. Webber 200, W. Packham 188, H. Newman 182, W. Myram 163, W. Fry 148, A. Hillman 130, W. Sayers 83, H.Burt 69, S Pierce 62, F.Pix 31, W. Glyde 22 and F. Britten 20. 6 1/2 dozen had been brought in to Mr Morfee and paid for at 3p a dozen and this made a total of 2912.

The club had agreed to give three prizes for the highest number of heads and these are awarded thus: first, F. Webber, 7s 6d; 2nd, J.MacFarlane, 5s; 3rd, J.Pratt 2s.6d.

The toast of the evening that of "success to the Cuckfield and district sparrow club," was proposed by the chairman. He was very pleased, he said, to see so many friends and neighbours there that night and hoped they would have a pleasant evening.

Reverting to the subject of the toast, the speaker pointed out that the club was not started until the matter had been well talked over, and he thought it had been a benefit to the members individually and collectively.

It was a good thing for them to combine together, for then they could help one another, which they could not do without combination. No doubt before the club had been inaugurated many years a few alterations in the working of it, and to the rules, would be needed. They did not wish the latter to hit one man and not another: they wanted them to affect everybody and be congenial to all.

The results of the first year, he thought were rather marvellous, has nearly 3000 sparrows had been accounted for.

But they must not think they had exterminated the pest yet.

He was thrashing the other day, and he could assure them no appreciable difference was noticed in the sparrows flocking round. There was no industry that had greater hardships to contend with than farming. They took the raw material and had a great number of pests to contend with and there was trouble all the year round. Every trade had combination except farming, and there was even union among dumb animals, which was approved by an amusing story being told.

The speaker said that by cooperating together in the aim of the club they would make better men of themselves and better neighbours. (Applause.) Mr E. Gander proposed "the subscribers," and thanked those who had come forward to the age of the club in a financial way. He hoped they would do the same thing again, or a little better.

He coupled with the toast the name of Mr Beeching. The letter returned thanks, saying he was entirely in sympathy with the objects of the club. Their chairman, he thought, was one of the best Scotsman who ever passed the border. By killing sparrows the members were endeavouring to make 100 ears of wheat grow where perhaps 40 grew before, and in this respect they were benefactors to mankind. He would gladly continue his subscription, and was sure others would do the same.

Mr Beeching termed the sparrows the gentlefolk of the bird world -living in town in the winter and coming to the country in the summer. They need not be afraid of exterminating the pest, and he suggested it would be a good idea to encourage boys to catch them and bring them into their headquarters for a small payment. The chairman here intimated that a general meeting would be held in that place on Wednesday, March 29, at 7 o'clock, at which he hoped they would all be present.

Mr Hobson toasted "the singers," saying that they had added very materially to the success of the evening. Mr Burt responded. Mr A. Beeching proposed "the chairman." He was a man of varied experience, said the speaker, and a neighbour in every sense of the word. It said much for his ability to come to the south of England and adapt himself to their methods, and with so much success. He (Mr. Beeching), had not for many years seen such fine crops at great Bentley farm as Mr McFarlane grew, and he had never seen such large swedes as were produced this season on the farm.

The Kings Head c1910 (colourised) photograph courtesy of Cuckfield Museum

The chairman and Mr Fry were the mainsprings of the sparrow club, which must be doing some good in the district.

In conclusion the speaker hoped their chairman would enjoy long life and prosperity among them. (Applause and "for he's a jolly good fellow").

Mr McFarlane said the last speaker had been far too flattering. He then gave a short account of his first coming to England as a young man. He had not an enemy in Scotland that he knew of, and he had received as much kindness in England as in this is native land.

He appreciated an Englishman, and he had thoroughly enjoy himself among them that evening. The musical program, which was a lengthy one, was much enjoyed.

Songs were sung by Mr G. T. Bunting, E. Gander, H. Newman, H. Burt, G. Black, S.Pierce, R. Pratt, E. Cooper, B. Pix, J. Fines, W. Miles, W.Gander and H.Higgins.

Humorous duets were rendered by Mr Higginson, Bachelor, and Cooper and Pix, in character, both couples being on cord, while the recitation by a boy – W. Polly – one deserved commendation from the chairman.

Mr Bunting was the accompanist of the evening.

A very successful function concluded at 11 o'clock with the national anthem.

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