The North’s Greatest Heiress or the North’s ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’?
Report Minutes by Kathryn Archibald
Guest Speaker – Anthony Atkinson
After our usual warm welcome from Janis Crook, we started with our speaker, Anthony Atkinson and Wow, what a treat we had as he is not only an accomplished speaker with a dry wit but the subject of his talk, Mary Eleanor Bowes, led a fascinating life.
Mary Eleanor, born in 1749, was the beloved only child of Sir George Bowes who had an idyllic childhood where she was ‘spoiled by over-indulgences, ruined by over-kindness and corrupted by over-caresses’ or in today’s lingo a ‘spoilt brat’!
You could say that as she grew older she increasingly had a lot in common with another incredibly rich young woman – Barbara Hutton, the Woolworth heiress who became known as the ‘Poor Little Rich Girl’. Despite their immense wealth neither woman found long-standing happiness with a man. Barbara had seven husbands and although Mary Eleanor had only two husbands she endured great pain and sadness in her adult life. Aged only 18, she was the subject of a ‘Smithfield Bargain’ (an arranged marriage) to the ‘Beautiful’ Lord John, 9th Earl of Strathmore.
She had the money, the education and a fortune worth £150 million (in today’s money) and he had the good looks, Glamis Castle and a fondness for the bottle. They had nothing in common but did manage to produce five children before his early death from TB at the age of 39. It is reported that during and immediately after the marriage she took lovers, but was initially reluctant to marry again. However, she was seduced by Andrew, ‘Captain’ Stoney who duped her into marrying him, with the help of an unscrupulous tabloid newspaper editor and professional duellist. When Stoney realised her fortune had been protected by the equivalent of a prenuptial agreement he subjected her to horrendous mental, physical and financial abuse.
After eight years of sheer hell, her servants helped her escape from his clutches to file for divorce and, even though she finally managed to legally break free from him, the damage was done. She died in 1800 a broken, sad and probably very lonely lady. Her story proves the old adage that ‘Money doesn’t buy you happiness’. It has been said that his legacy may be the derivation of the phrase ‘Stoney Broke” after frittering away a fortune and being found guilty of fraudulent activities.
Janis offered our thanks to Anthony for sharing Mary Eleanor’s story with us and gave praise for his excellent delivery and presentation.
- Janis confirmed that the minutes from our June meeting had been emailed and with no objections, were agreed and filed. She followed with a quick debrief on the feedback from our link delegate at the Annual Meeting.
- Janis paid tribute to the ‘WI Reflections’ that Joan Davidson has penned and asked for further contributions towards our Centennial booklet which we will collate for the Christmas party. Any short stories, summaries of notable trips or WI events will be most welcome. Our goal is to produce a memorable compilation of our WI memories and record how things have changed and how much fun the WI has generated in 100 years.
- The WI embroidered new clothing items will be delivered shortly and a notice will be sent out when they arrive.
- Lesley Long gave a short introduction to her new show Lionheart Radio ‘Women on Air’ which is broadcast between 9-11 am on Tuesday mornings. Lesley asked members to share any stories or experiences that would be interesting to listeners and would like to use her show as a positive platform for the WI. More to follow at the September meeting.
WI Local & Federation Events
- The Alnmouth Hullabaloo is on July 13th and the WI will be providing a Strawberry Themed Afternoon tea between 3.30-5.30pm. Judith Williams has asked that anyone baking either take their produce at St Kilda between 10-11 am, or deliver to the event site around 1pm. Would all helpers please will bring 5-7 lites of water in bottles or containers with them.
- The lunch at Foxton Hall will be on August 21st and if anyone has not signed up yet please do so by the end of July by contacting Kathryn Archibald. Payment will be due on the day but anyone cancelling within 2 days will be charged.
- Our planned Trip to Norfolk in September is now full but if anyone wants to go on the waiting list contact Di Spark or Kathryn.
- Kathryn highlighted some of the many forthcoming events including 10 tickets for a new Hotspur event: “A Night at the Musicals” which will be hosted by Alnwick Brizlee at the Alnwick Rugby Club on October 9th. By the end of the evening 10 members had signed up for tickets. We also have 3 tickets to attend the Embleton 101st birthday party on September 10th – if anyone is interested please let Kathryn know.
- The Informal Coffee Morning will be at the Old School Gallery on July 18th from 10 am.
- The next meeting will be on September 2nd when Moira Kilkenny will talk about ‘Angels of the North’ and the competition will be ‘A Favourite Northern Woman, and Why’.
- Thanks to Judith, Margaret, Kris, Kathryn and Ethel for an excellent supper and to Tina Stroud for providing gluten free scones and a cake. Thanks also to Anne for the birthday flowers and for doing the raffle, and a final thanks to everyone who contributed to the baking basket. It will be put to good use for the Hullabaloo Afternoon tea.
All in all, a most enjoyable evening which showed that you do not need Mary Eleanor Bowes fortune to have a great time – just a group of lovely ladies, a good speaker and a delicious supper!