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KINGSTON WI: After our social time, we learned there are now 58 members. The treasurer reported a balance of just over £1000 which means we need to raise more funds this summer. WI activities for June include tap dancing on June 25; Pilates every Tuesday 2pm to 3pm; craft group is every Friday 2pm to 4pm and the choir has Friday practises for a July concert. The Village Fete on July 4 will hopefully raise more funds; there is a visit to the Clayton Tunnel North Portal on June 28; lunch at Gravetye Manor on August 6, and Craft Day, August 8.

Gary Enstone talked about the remarkable life of Rudyard Kipling who was named after Rudyard reservoir near Stoke-on-Trent. His parents, Alice MacDonald and John Lockwood Kipling, married in 1865 and moved to India. They established a school for ex-pat families in Bombay, following the English education system and encouraged Indian, as well as ex-pat children to attend. Rudyard and his sister, Alice, spoke Hindi, like their ayah (nanny), and explored the local environment. He told of a time he wandered into the jungle, came across a tiger and told it a story. At age 5 years he and his three year old sister, were sent to England for an English education, and didn’t see their parents for 7 years. Their Southsea School taught a limited syllabus and the children were treated cruelly and neglected. The summers and Christmases were spent with relatives at the Burns-Jones’ house which Kipling described as Paradise.

By 13 the abuse he suffered left him looking old. He was refused a place at Oxford and Cambridge for being born in India; and later refused an honorary degree from Oxbridge because of this. He returned to India in 1882, as assistant editor of a small, Lahore newspaper and later to ‘The Pioneer’ in Allahabad.

He returned to London, to run-down Villiers Street, Charing Cross where he befriended an American, Walcott Balestier. His plan, two years later, to visit his parents in India was cancelled and he returned to London when Walcott died suddenly. Kipling married Walcott’s sister Caroline and they had Josephine and Elsie while living in Vermont near Caroline’s family. The family returned to the UK in 1896 and their son John was born in 1897. They moved to Rottingdean in 1897 but Kipling’s fame was preventing them leaving the house. On a visit to the US, Josephine and Rudyard developed pneumonia from which she died. This encouraged him to write the Just So Stories and Kim. In 1902 Kipling bought Batemans at Burwash, and while Caroline ran the estate, Rudyard became a stay-at-home-dad, it was to be his home until his death in 1936.

After the Boer War, he wrote the Blind Beggar, and was involved with charities that later became the Chelsea Pensioners and the British Legion. In 1914, World War 1, he was involved with writing pamphlets and poems supporting the war effort. His son John who had poor eye sight and hearing wanted to enlist; after several failed attempts, Rudyard arranged his commission. At the Battle of Loos he was listed as missing and was never seen again. Later Kipling wrote, ‘If any question why we died/ tell them, because our fathers lied’. He became involved in the setting up of the War Graves Commission; composed the phrases on every tombstone and also on the Cenotaph. He proposed that monuments to the war dead be erected in every town and village but found visiting the one in Burwash too difficult.

Rudyard Kipling died in 1936, his ashes buried in poet’s corner, Westminster Abbey; Caroline died in 1939 when Batemans was bequeathed to the National Trust.

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