Shropshire Star

Save the Children group's pride after Princess Royal visits county birthplace of charity founders

A charity group which has raised tens of thousands of pounds over more than half a century received royal recognition when Princess Anne visited the county.

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During last Wednesday’s visit as Patron of Save the Children, Her Royal Highness thanked long-serving members of the charity’s local fundraising branch who gathered to meet her at the birthplace of its founders.

They included Corinna Jebb, whose late husband Lionel was a great-nephew of Eglantyne Jebb, and Dorothy Buxton, the Ellesmere-born sisters who launched Save the Children in 1919. They initially started the charity to help feed starving children in Germany and Austria at the end of the First World War.

Mrs Jebb started the local branch in 1968 from the family home, the Lyth estate, on the outskirts of Ellesmere, where her son Richard now lives with his wife Professor Susan Jebb and their son Felix.

Another original member of the group, Sheila Griffith, was also among those introduced to the Princess at the start of her afternoon visit to Ellesmere, together with branch secretary Jean Ferries, who became a member soon after the branch was formed.

“The Princess was so interested in hearing about all the things we’ve been doing to raise money,” said Mrs Ferries, “She spent more time talking to us than we’d expected and it was so lovely to be with her in the house where Eglantyne and Dorothy were born. She really seemed to enjoy spending time with us and with Richard and his family."

Over the years, the Save the Children fundraisers have organised a wide variety of fundraising events, ranging from coffee mornings to rummage sales, sponsored walks, quiz nights, cheese and wine evenings, concerts and barn dances.

The annual Christmas lunch continued for 30 years and Mrs Jebb sold seasonal greetings cards in Ellesmere Market every Christmas until poor health forced her to give up in 2019.

“You name it, we’ve done it.” said Mrs Ferries. “The Ellesmere community has been very generous towards Save the Children and we like to think that Eglantyne and Dorothy would be very proud of the support that’s been given by the town where they were born. It’s involved a lot of hard work over the years, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

“Our members are getting on in years now,” added Mrs Ferries, "but we’re determined to keep the branch going and we hope the Princess Royal’s visit will inspire younger volunteers to come forward and support us, especially as Her Royal Highness herself works so hard herself for the charity.”

Adrienne Williams, Save the Children’s community fundraising and engagement manager, who was in Ellesmere for the royal visit, said: “It is wonderful to celebrate the people from the Ellesmere community who are such a committed group of Save the Children supporters. It is due to the generosity and dedicated hard work of our community fundraisers that Save the Children can carry out the work we do across the globe.”

On arriving at the Lyth, the Princess Royal was greeted by Deputy Lieutenant for Shropshire, Major General John Crackett and Save the Children’s humanitarian director, Gareth Owen.

She was welcomed into the house by Mr Richard Jebb and his family.

They told her about their recent visit to Geneva when Eglantyne Jebb’s remains were transferred from a municipal cemetery to a new resting place, known as the Cemetery of Kings, where she now lies among 350 well-known figures who have played a significant role in the city’s history.

The religious service and civic ceremony was part of centenary events to mark the centenary of the Geneva Declaration of the the Rights of the Child, drafted by Eglantyne and adopted by the League of Nations in 1924. It is now enshrined in a United Nations Convention on children’s rights.

Local historian Alison Utting, who has researched the Jebb family history and gives regular talks on the subject, joined Richard Jebb in showing the Princess documents from the family archives.

Ellesmere Library assistant Sally Poynton also showed the royal visitor a display of illustrations of Eglantyne, which will feature in a new booklet that will be published locally in September to coincide with the anniversary of the Geneva Declaration.

Also at the Lyth, Her Royal Highness met Abi-Lou Foster, the current Jebb Scholar at nearby Ellesmere College.

She presented her with a copy of 'The Woman who Saved the Children', signed by Eglantyne award-winning biographer, Clare Mulley.

The sixth form scholarship was established in 2019 by the college’s late headmaster, Brendan Wignall, in honour of Eglantyne Jebb, and is offered to students demonstrating selfless support to the community through volunteering and fundraising.