February Meeting 2018

‘Toy Town to Buckingham Palace’
Speaker: John Stirling

Tuesday 20th February 2018

What a treat we had at our February meeting when we welcomed John Stirling and his presentation entitled ‘From Toytown to Buckingham Palace’.  We certainly didn’t know what to expect when a table laden with cuddly donkeys awaited us, and we were all pleasantly surprised!

John started by telling us about his family, in particular his Mother, Pamela Stirling, who was actress and starred in ‘Candlelight in Algeria’ with James Mason in 1944.  From his early childhood in France and boarding school in Dorset, to the Italia Conti Arts school in London.  His early career as a child actor began in his first role as ‘Noddy’ in the West End production of Enid Blyton’s ‘Noddy in Toyland’.  This part led him to go on to work in television with some of Britain’s comedy greats including Jimmy Edwards, Ted Ray and Sid James.  Remember ‘Whack-O’? John’s character was Lumley J

John went on to work in production and writing, from pantomimes to working with Morecambe & Wise in the Royal Variety shows, and progressing into writing and producing for television.  John wrote a drama film for his friend and actress, Patricia Hayes entitled ‘Marked for Life’ which told the story of twelve rescued donkeys named after the apostles.  Sadly Ms Hayes passed away before the film was made and John was left with the twelve donkeys!

This is where his journey began.  With the help of his friends Judi Dench, Michael Williams and June Brown, the Michael Elliott Trust was formed working with special needs children and rescuing donkeys from all over the world.  John kept us entertained with his funny stories of celebrities he has met over the years that have helped raise money for the trust.

John started his television career as ‘Lumley’ in Whack-O! with Jimmy Ewards

John was accompanied by his wife Ann, a former BBC costume designer.  Ann has played a significant role in raising funds for the charity too, holding the record for the longest pilgrimage with an animal, on a walk in Italy with a donkey called Beethoven.  Together, John & Ann have taken part in numerous charity walks across the UK, including one from Scarborough to Blackpool Beach, when they were welcomed by many WI members in towns and villages on their journey.  Another walk led them from Balmoral to Buckingham Palace, unexpectedly the Queen was in residence and came out to feed the donkey.  So that’s where Buckingham Palace comes in!

At the end of his presentation, John explained that the cuddly donkeys he had brought along were on sale for £10 each.  £10 is what it costs for a child to attend the Donkey Sanctuary for a day – the table was soon empty! J

Thank you John and Ann for a very entertaining evening – keep up the excellent work!

Thank you to all those members that bought Donkey’s to help the Trust 🙂