Alumna Pat Ransome (nee Salter) studied PE and Divinity from 1969 until 1972 at the then Chester College. She has remained an engaged member of the University community since, and is a dedicated member of our University of Chester Alumni Association (UCAA) committee.
As 100 years since the end of World War One approaches, the committee and Alumni Team have chosen to commemorate the centenary through a series of events and activities. As part of these commemorations, an individual textile poppy is being made for each of the 77 alumni listed on the memorial plaque in the University Chapel, who gave their lives in the War. Pat has been heavily involved in our poppy project, and in this week’s blog, she tells us a bit more about it…
“In 2018, one hundred years after the end of World War One, the University of Chester Alumni Association wishes to acknowledge and remember the parts played in the war by many of the staff and students of the former Chester Diocesan Training College.
“In the University Chapel, an oak memorial board poignantly lists the names of 77 who lost their lives during this time – past students and staff and all, therefore, fellow alumni. Successive generations of students have passed through our University Chapel that would have been as familiar and recognisable then as it now, and many will have read of the 77 names and wondered of those lives so cruelly cut short – sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, cousins, nephews on the threshold of the rest of their lives. All had their own story to tell of their families, their homes, their College days, their hopes and aspirations, not so different perhaps from those of our current students.
“A series of commemorative events and activities are therefore planned for 2018, including a special service of remembrance in the University Chapel, which will unveil the 77 individual, handmade poppies we are currently making. Several Alumni members have been involved in fascinating research into the names of the 77. They have been able to discover more about their lives and backgrounds, and have also been able to contact relatives, which is remarkable and a testament to their endeavours. Some relatives hope to join us in the commemorative events, and some will be creating their own poppy to bring to the Chapel service. It has been humbling and a privilege to be involved in such an important event.“My own involvement arose from my time in Chester as a former student, when singing in the College Choir in Chapel, I had ample time to sit and look at the memorial boards and even then, I wanted to know more! Now through the UCAA, I am finding out more and more – what a journey of discovery and learning it is proving to be!
“I had already worked with the University Sewing Group on past projects, such as the University’s 175th Anniversary quilt and the new Chapel vestments. I really enjoyed being a part of the group, so when the idea of crafting individual poppies was first shared, I enthusiastically joined in. The main aim of the sewing group is to make individual and unique poppies, with the aim of completing at least 77, one for each fallen alumnus, which will be displayed at the University.
“The group meets regularly in Old College and since early spring, we have had around five meetings. At the first meeting in April, there was a lot of discussion… What would the poppies look like? What size? What shape will they be displayed in? How and where will they be displayed? After such a lengthy discussion, there was not much time left for sewing, however we did put together some guidelines for anyone wishing to make a poppy (which are available to download here). We want each poppy to be unique to reflect each individual life, so there is the opportunity for people to be creative in how they craft their poppy. We want to extend the project to as many people as possible – staff, students, alumni and volunteers!
“In the initial meetings, we also made templates of poppies in card so that we could consider ideas for the shape and scale of the display – we quickly realised we had to be flexible in our thoughts on how it might look and the size.
“Links have already been made with other groups. We learned more about other projects within University, such as Diverse Narratives. We also attended a talk at Riverside Campus hosted by the Faculty of Health and Social Care, which discussed the role of women in the munitions factories in World War One, as well as visiting the University of Chester Riverside Museum. Several external groups are also happy to support the project, including Gladstone’s Library in Hawarden, Eaton Hall, and St Mary’s Church in Upton. We are also engaging with Chester Students’ Union and would be delighted if any of our current students were interested in joining the project. Even if you are unable to attend our meetings regularly, we still welcome everyone to make a poppy. We have had a lot of interest!
“In July, the Sewing Group joined The Big Stitch at Queen’s Park Campus, looking at sustainable ways of recycling materials – it is a national project run in conjunction with the British Heart Foundation. Some of our poppies will be created using material from some of the old Chapel vestments.
“The completion date for the poppies has been agreed as January 19, 2018 – in order to enable time to mount the poppies for display. We now have a considerable number of completed poppies and always welcome more! If we receive more than the 77 poppies, several ways in which these can be used are being discussed. It is amazing to see each poppy as they arrive, made with such obvious care and commitment.”
If you’re interested in taking part in our poppy project, or joining the UCAA, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01244 511091.