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YOUNG MOTHERS GROUP 1978-1988

by Liz Philp (formerly Simpson)

I do not know when this group started, but when I arrived in Edinburgh in October 1978 it was a well-established section of the 'Tea Club'. I had been a student at Edinburgh University in the 60's, but returning to this beautiful city ten years after graduation with a small child made me realise that I had no idea where facilities appropriate to a lively toddler - play parks and the like - were to be found. I needed to find new friends with children and the wife of my husband's professor suggested that I join the Tea Club, so I turned up at the flat in Buccleuch Place one Wednesday morning with some trepidation.

I found a group of charming, friendly women with children of a similar age to my own who met together once a week simply to chat. I soon joined other 'Mother & Toddler' groups, but the university one was special. We did discuss baby feeding, nappies and toilet training, as inevitably women who meet together at that stage, but there was so much more. We were a group who had other things in common, coming from many departments of the university and from diverse backgrounds, we all became firm friends - indeed I am still in touch with several members from those days. As our children enjoyed playing with the toys in the flat- I suspect donated by older Tea Club members whose children had grown out of them, my son greatly coveted a splendid Fisher Price garage - we were able to talk and the discussions were wide-ranging and beyond the immediate needs of a stay-at-home mum.

As the older children grew up and we no longer needed to keep them entertained on a Wednesday morning, it was suggested that we start an evening group as a way of keeping in touch. This group met once a month in each other's homes and we had many interesting talks given by members of the group as well as invited outside speakers, also an annual summer outing and a 'pot luck supper', both including husbands and well-remembered by many as interesting events.

With two children born over four years apart (which happened, because of their respective birthdays, to be five school years, surprising what a difference that makes) I was a member of the Tea Club Young Mothers Group for a number of years, making a lot of different friends with the two children. This time coincided with a period of social and demographic change which was partly brought about by just one thing - the lunatic increase in house prices which occurred during the 1980's. Whereas in 1978 a newly-appointed young chemistry lecturer with a non-working wife was just able to buy a three-storey house with garden in leafy south Newington, this sort of property rapidly became quite out of the price range of a young family. While the mothers of my son's contemporaries were almost all stay-at-homes, by the time my daughter came along many young mothers soon went back to work, often in order to pay a large mortgage. Those who chose to remain at home and wanted a house with a garden could only afford to live out of the city centre and thus did not want to travel into Buccleuch Place for a toddler group. Thus, sadly, the (by then) University Women's Club Young Mothers Group slowly lost members and just sort of fizzled out, some time around the time my daughter went to school in the late 1980's as I recall. The evening group survived for a while, but even this died a death - some members moved away from Edinburgh when their husbands got promotion elsewhere and all of us became involved in other things.

The Tea Club organised a Christmas Party each year for all university children, I believe this was originally held in Adam House but latterly it was at the Buccleuch Place flat. The full committee threw themselves enthusiastically into making sandwiches and cakes, but organising the games fell to the Young Mothers members. I told my children that I had been asked to write this article and while neither could remember much about the Wednesday mornings, they remembered the parties - the whole flat festooned with poppy waste (the outside bits from making poppies donated by the Earl Haig factory), 'Uncle Les' the magician and yummy food.

I was sorry when the Young Mothers Group faded out. I greatly valued the friendships I made through it.

I sometimes meet former members of the group still in Edinburgh, and exchange Christmas cards with others, and all recall it as an excellent part of a happy period of their lives.



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