My Life in the Gutter
Asby WI was the host for the Crossfell Group’s half-yearly meeting. Asby’s President, Annie Johnson, opened the meeting by welcoming 40 members from Asby, Bolton, Colby, Ormside and Kirkby Thore WIs, and the CWFWI Treasurer. Following a short business meeting Annie then introduced the evening’s speaker – Mr Archie Workman.
The title of his extremely interesting and entertaining talk was ‘My life in the gutter’. In it he described how he had begun his professional life as an engineer working initially on ships’ diesel engines and later supervising work in the dry docks. Work then took him to Russia for 2 years after which he returned to Cumbria and spent time on Cumbrian development, finishing as the part-time Managing Director of Ulverston Business Centre.
It was when he became the part-time lengthsman for Colton Parish where he was responsible for minor roads maintenance, clearing drain covers, unblocking drains and cleaning road signs that his life in the gutter really began. His tools of the trade comprise wheelbarrow, brush, shovel, strimmer, drain rods, and chain saw and the work involves digging out the drain compost by hand.
By chance he featured in the Lengthsman’s Calendar and then in the 2015 Dull Men’s Club Calendar (an American production). This lead to national fame as the ‘Dullest Man in Cumbria’ with subsequent radio and TV interviews, and a page in the 2016 Drainspotters’ Calendar.
By now Allithwaite Parish Council had asked him to clean and re-paint their waymarking signs and restore their Victorian signposts. Followed by Lowick where he restored a derelict bus shelter, he now does work for Blawith, Coniston, Askam and Ireleth. In the latter parish he has two Victorian water fountains to work on. Never a dull moment in his life, or in his talk!
Since the Group Meeting Asby WI has held its annual meeting where the officers were reappointed and, with two exceptions (Susan Renshaw retiring as Vice President and Gwen Hadrill who served as Secretary for many years), the committee was re-elected, with Maggie Johnson joining the team. After the evening’s refreshments had been served by Helen Horn and Louise Reeve the meeting closed with a lively social time during which every member present managed to win at least one prize. The raffle was won by Susan Walker who, together with Anne Hulse, also was the competition winner for a wartime memento.