Winchelsea Wednesdays


The first of a new monthly series on Winchelsea matters by local resident, Natasha Robinson. These are published with kind permission of the Winchelsea parish magazine.

Bill please…
…a phrase I’ve heard so many times over my many years in hospitality; and now at the Second Wednesday Society (SWS).

In this instance, the Bill I refer to is our very own Mr Doherty. Renowned for his great knowledge, his extraordinary memory and his unique delivery, Bill’s February talk was entitled “A Man and a Brother”. Most of you know him as a retired consultant in anaesthetics and intensive care, or for his inimitably eloquent vote of thanks at the Literary Society.

Less well-known is his gift for foreign languages. We exchange emails about books or articles, which he always signs off in fluent Italian. As a proud Glaswegian with a great love of history, he devotes much of his time countering the notion that Edinburgh is the Athens of the north.

Bill’s talk focused on the economics, the fashions, facts and figures, technical advances and even the randomness of the prevailing winds, that all played their part in forming the framework of the slave trade. The banality of numbers, graphs and blueprints only emphasised, in the words of another famous Scot, Robert Burns, “Man’s inhumanity to man”. He laid bare the misery of up to twelve million people and the casual barbarity that reduced them to numbers on a balance sheet or an insurance claim.

As in its creation, its demise was another list of random factors converging to change the course of history yet again. Quakerism, revolution and marketing formed a powerful triumvirate. They paved the way for the abolitionist movement, political upheaval, industrial growth and one of the only powers allowed to women, a purchasing boycott. But the deciding factor was of course profitability; when it no longer made financial sense, the transatlantic slave trade finally came to an end.

March is a much anticipated, milestone month. The 1st is not only the meteorological beginning of spring, but this year, is also Shrove Tuesday. If you find it hard to buy into spring yet, then astronomical spring was the 20th and the clocks change on the 27th. So whichever way you look at it, it’s a month for joy and hope, pancakes, and daffodils.

March also, will bring Mary Smith to us at SWS. During her time as headteacher at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, she discovered a remarkable archive detailing the history of the school during the second world war. Helen Keen, art teacher at the time, had recorded, in sketches and watercolours, the everyday struggles faced by staff and pupils alike, during those dark days. Her talk is the inspirational story of “A Schoolgirl’s War”.

As my brother-in-law always says, “every day is a school day” and every Second Wednesday really is an opportunity to discover all sorts of wonderful and important things together.
Natasha Robinson

Natasha and her husband have lived in Winchelsea for ten years and are retired from the hotel and restaurant business. They run Serenata Hospitality, which helps to organise the three major front-of-house skills competitions in the UK. Training, encouraging and mentoring the next generation of hospitality stars, is their way of giving back to the industry they love. Natasha is chair of Winchelsea’s Second Wednesday Society.

Image Credits: Nick Forman .

Previous articleA special rescue, 39 years ago
Next articleRye’s local infantry regiment


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here