Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Henley Rotary Club

STEPHEN QUANT, husband of the club’s speaker’s secretary, spoke at last week’s lunch meeting at the

STEPHEN QUANT, husband of the club’s speaker’s secretary, spoke at last week’s lunch meeting at the Red Lion Hotel.

He has spoken to members on at least three occasions when his wife Vivienne has been unable to secure a speaker. His previous subjects were English history before 1066, the Roman occupation and the history of the Rifles regiment.

His breadth of knowledge is impressive as he showed with his latest talk about “The Great Heathen Army and the Viking raids”, which concentrated on their progress through England.

Stephen explained that the Vikings who raided Scotland were mainly from Norway, those from Sweden went to Russia, while Danes concentrated on England, which at that time was divided into four kingdoms, Wessex, Mercia, Northumbria and East Anglia.

Landing in East Anglia in AD 865, the invaders made their way northwards towards York which they occupied in 866. While a contingent ventured into Northumbria, most made their way south by differing routes, finishing up in Wessex at Exeter and Wareham and in Mercia at Gloucester.

Alfred the Great of Wessex had attempted to buy off the Danes but they had kept returning until he defeated them at the battle of Edington in Wiltshire in AD 878.

They continued to dominate Mercia and the rest of England but the Anglo-Saxons held Wessex from then on.

Lionel Scott, the club’s president-elect who was chairing the meeting in the absence of John Grout, gave the vote of thanks.

David Rusman reported that he was hoping to enter a team for the Rotary Club of Henley Bridge’s annual quiz night on March 24.

At this week’s twilight meeting, Vivienne Quant  herself was the speaker, giving a fascinating insight into the world of gypsies and  travellers.

She has worked as a Citizens Advice Bureau representative with the various communities, visiting them in their homes as many were reluctant to come into the offices for advice or help.

She originally applied for the post nine years ago, which then covered the whole Thames Valley, but in recent years she has concentrated on the Chiltern area of South Buckinghamshire for Chesham Citizens Advice Bureau.

Illustrated by an excellent selection of 24 slides prepared and displayed by her husband, Vivienne dispelled many preconceptions about gypsies and travellers.

There were about eight different sorts in Britain, including ethnic groupings, Romani or gypsies, Irish travellers, show and circus people and bargees. Many of these groups did not like each other.

Describing the origins, cultural characteristics and lifestyle of the differing groups, she pointed out that, for instance, the Romani gypsies placed great value on the extended family as well as holding definite rules on what is considered impure.

In the 2011 census, 58,000 identified themselves as “Gypsies or Irish travellers”, although estimates from other sources say that the number is closer to 300,000.

While many lived in house or flats, 24 per cent lived in caravans or mobile homes, most of which were on socially rented sites or private sites with planning permission, although 12 per cent were on land owned by the gypsy and Romani traveller community without planning permission.

Vivienne emphasised what we can learn from the Romani gypsies, praising their reliance, adaptability, respect for their elders and traditional skills.

Maria Bunina thanked her for her presentation, commenting on its educational aspect.

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