Tribute to Patricia Jennings
Northumbrian Pipers' Society
Mrs Patricia Jennings 1915-2013
Patricia is the only piper to have been a formally elected “playing member” of the Northumbrian Pipers' Society for over 80 years: her involvement with the NPS started only 15 months after the Society was formed. The election required her to play two tunes to the satisfaction of committee members; something she achieved in January 1930.
Piping was largely a solo and isolated activity in the rural areas, but Patricia had lessons from the best teachers of the day: pupils of G G Armstrong are always recognisable by their clarity of style.
In 1947, Lady Mary Trevelyan was elected as Society President and in the same year, Patricia joined the committee: one suspects that this was not a coincidence!She reckoned that there were only about 6 players left around this time, and although our research suggests about 50 is a more likely figure , we think perhaps she meant “of performance standard”.
In 1960 Patricia took her pipes to Jack Armstrong to be fettled, and also renewed her connection with Society organisation, holding the post of vice-chairman for a year. Soon afterwards she started a monthly playing group at Wallington, and although this was not formally part of the Pipers' Society events programme, most attendees were Society members. Her duets with Jack Armstrong at the Clock Tower Tea Rooms were heard by visitors from near and far: many of our members are now playing as a direct result of hearing these performances.
Patricia was elected an NPS vice-president- a lifetime honour awarded for extended services to the Society– and then, in 1997, invited to become President. She accepted with a cheerful enthusiasm which belied her advancing years. She rarely missed a significant Society event, and those of us who had not known her well before, soon learnt not to leave our pipes on our chairs, and to smile when we played! The Society was invited to join the Wallington group in an afternoon of playing in the courtyard. This annual event invariably attracted large crowds and many pipers - and also suspiciously good weather: rumours that clouds were too frightened to appear over Wallington on that afternoon soon circulated.
In 2003, the NPS celebrated its 75th birthday at a concert in Morpeth and Patricia enthusiastically led the Wallington group contribution. It was only 7 years ago that increasing deafness led her to retire from the post: a hard act to follow, and an example to all our 800 members of what can be achieved by persistent enthusiasm.
We will miss her, but she will not be forgotten, the historians amongst us will see to that. To finish on a more personal note, my memory is of being shown round the Hall by Patricia – and seeing the NT staff almost coming to attention as she approached each room!
Julia Say 2013