Warrington Archives Podcast 4: Fresh Air Joy Days

Philip Jeffs presents the latest episode in a new series of podcasts, looking at interesting finds from Warrington’s Archives.


Today’s article is from the same page as our last podcast, page 11 of the Warrington Guardian, 23rd July 1932. I almost talked about it last time, but thought it warranted more time than I had.

The article is titled, “Fresh Air Fund, Joy Days for Local Children” and its introductory paragraph reads as follows:

There is no charity more deserving and worthy of support than one that carries joy into the poorest of homes, and, given generous support, the Fresh Air Fund will take thousands of children out into the Country for Joy Days, and many delicate ones will be taken to the Seaside for a fortnight holiday, the best medicine they would have for restoring health to their frail bodies.

The article goes on to explain that for over 25 years Mr. Stewart Royston of Paddington Grange in Warrington (later of Sunnyside Padgate), has been organising fundraising in the town for the Fresh Air Fund, and that in honour of his fundraising the charity has made a special donation of £30 to the Warrington Children’s Summer Camp at Prestatyn and £30 to the Warrington Rural Area Summer Camp at Rhyl.

Now, this article is interesting for various reasons, but two in particular, the first being that it reminds us of the terrible pollution people in Warrington were living with, even in the 1920s, and shows how just a few days of fresh air could improve a child’s health. The fund was a National one, but obviously the people of Warrington had given generously to it, which is why the charity made special grants specifically to Warrington children.

Aside from this reference to pollution, the second thing of real interest in this article is the mention of Mr. Stewart Royston. I had come across Royston’s name before, during our WWI Commemorations. In the collections at Warrington Archives, we have a pamphlet published in 1919 titled “The Real Life Story of The Walking Stick King”. This pamphlet gives a short biography of W. Stewart Royston including a description of his extensive charity work over many years. The pinnacle of that charity work was his scheme to provide walking sticks to disabled servicemen during World War One. 

At the age of 16, whilst a student at Boteller Grammar School, Royston had suffered an illness that left him paralysed down his left hand side for the rest of his life and temporarily blind. Much of his life from then on was spent confined to his bed helping others through organising fundraising campaigns for a large variety of charities. 

The Fresh Air Fund we have mentioned already, but well worth looking at today is the work which led to him being known as The Walking Stick King. By 1919 Royston had provided over 25,000 walking sticks to injured servicemen. His work led to letters of thanks from Lords, Bishops, Ministers and Prime ministers from across the world, and even a much treasured thanks from Queen Mary.     

One letter of thanks, sent this time by an ordinary soldier, reads as follows: 

I have just left Endell Street Hospital and been sent home to await the Limb hospital at Roehampton being able to fit me with an artificial leg. Meantime I am getting about with the aid of a pylon leg and a couple of splendid stout sticks, which, I have just heard are supplied through your fund. 

I am therefore sending these few lines to thank you for the interest you have taken in the lives of us soldiers, who have the misfortune to lose a limb, and to express my sincere appreciation of the most excellent and practical way in which you have shown your sympathy. I can assure you that I shall treasure these sticks knowing as I do that they come form one, who, though he is an invalid himself, can yet raise himself to think of others. I hope you will derive much happiness and comfort from the thought that others are looking to your example as a pattern for their own actions. Yours sincerely F.M. Grigson.

So in one little newspaper article we are led to think about the lives of poor children living amongst the smog and pollution of the town centre, the lives of disabled servicemen returning from the war, and the fascinating life of Warringtonian W. Stewart Royston himself.