Introducing our new Federation Chairman 2021-24!

Posted September 9, 2021 by WI Staff in Local Areas

Checking In With The Chairman…

Margaret Broome, Seaforde WI/Quoile Area

My name is Margaret Broome and I have been a member of Seaforde WI for 43 years, joining shortly after the birth of my third child. I am married, having just celebrated my 50th wedding anniversary, with 4 children – 3 girls living here in Northern Ireland and a son living in New York – and 7 grandchildren with ages ranging from 28 to 10. My first great-grandchild is expected any day and I am looking forward to that very much. Over the years I have been in WI I have been President and Secretary of my own branch and also served on the Arts Sub-Committee twice and the Magazine and Leisure Sub-Committee once.  In 2019 I was elected onto the United Nations Committee of ACWW, becoming Vice-Chair this year.

Some time ago someone suggested that I might like to become our Executive Member for the Quoile Area and I, somewhat reluctantly, agreed to let my name go forward. The WI means a great deal to me and I have always felt that you need to put as much into the organisation as you expect to get out. The Sub-Committees are an excellent way to learn more about the working of the WI, what opportunities it offers to its members and how much hard work goes into organising and carrying out the various festivals and activities. I felt the time was right to go onto the Executive but was not expecting to be voted in as Chairman on my first term.  I was both honoured and apprehensive in equal measures and only hope I can live up to the good work done by my predecessors.  I am grateful to have the support of Kathleen Verner as Vice-Chairman and Sheelagh McRandal as Treasurer, both of whom have a lot of experience at Executive level.

Our Federation is facing many challenges in the coming 3 years; Covid has hit our membership, which was already decreasing, hard.  We need to look to the future and ring in some changes.  The membership survey highlighted many issues which you, the members, felt needed to be addressed and we will endeavour to bring some of them to fruition.

One issue was the perception younger people have of the WI as a stuffy organisation with members who are only welcome if they do the traditional activities of cooking, baking, flower arranging, gardening, crafts and of course that old favourite – jam making.  On that evidence I, therefore, should not even be a member!  I only cook when I have too (very lucky to have a husband who doesn’t mind stepping up to the cooker), my baking days are long past me, and were never that good anyway.  My flower arranging is limited to placing in a vase and shaking and having suffered very badly form hay fever in my younger days I do not garden. My craft skills are very poor – I can think how I want things to look but my hands do not ever get the message, and as for jam – I enjoy eating it!  As you can see from that I am not your typical WI member, and yet here I am as Chairman. This should encourage those who feel they would not fit in; the WI can make use of everyone’s talents and believe me we all have some – however well-hidden they may be.

If the WI in Northern Ireland is to continue and thrive we are going to have to make changes – some of which will be difficult – to bring it into the 21st century and ensure that the legacy of the pioneers who set it up almost 90 years ago is protected. I said at the start that the WI means a lot to me – I love it – and over the years I have been saddened by the decline in membership and the closure of branches and even Areas.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who sent me cards, emails, phone calls and messages on the WI Facebook page.  I was overwhelmed and very humbled at the response to my election as Chairman and promise to do my very best to serve you, the members of this great organisation.

Margaret on the cover of our September Ulster Countrywoman magazine.


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