Hilda's Darby & Joan glory days

SHE is the first to admit she now feels lost on a Thursday afternoon.

Hilda Popplewell has helped bring countless lonely pensioners together for friendship and fun.

For the last 59 years the retired wages clerk has been an unsung hero of the Darby and Joan Club movement. Her dedication to the cause has ensured a warm welcome for hundreds of elderly people in her west Leeds village. They met up for a few hours every Thursday afternoon to enjoy a game of whist or dominos along with a cup of tea and a good old fashioned natter.

But all that remains of Farsley Darby and Joan Club is now memories after the 91-year-old stalwart was forced to call it a day owing to ill health.

"It has been a part of my life for so long that I feel lost on a Thursday afternoon now," admits Hilda, a mother-of-one. "But all good things have to come to an end."

When the club closed in December its membership had dwindled to just 16. But Hilda can remember the days when it boasted more than 100 members – and a waiting list.

"After the war there was the feeling people wanted to be together, to help each other," she said. "It's a lot different now. When you are stuck in the house on your own it gets lonely so the club was a meeting place to look forward to."

Over the years Hilda organised dozens of Christmas dinners for members as well as an annual day trip to the coast every August.

"We went all over the place over the years. But everyone liked Llandudno in Wales the best. It was level you see."

Her commitment to the cause has meant over the years Hilda has become more and more well known among Farsley residents.

"I'm as well known as the bellman in the village," she laughs. "I get people coming up to me saying their parents used to be involved. I have enjoyed every minute of it."

Darby and Joan Clubs were set up by the Women's Voluntary Service (WVS) after the war for older people.

In 1966 WVS was awarded royal patronage and changed its name to the Women's Royal Voluntary Service (WRVS). Today the charity, which has over 60,000 volunteers including 10,000 men, continues to provide support for more than 200 Darby and Joan Clubs.

Sandra Leivers, WRVS community manager for South and West Yorkshire, said: "Hilda has made a huge difference for other people in her community in nearly 60 years of service with the WRVS. We're really sad that she is unable to continue at the Farsley Darby and Joan club, and very sad that we have not been able to find another volunteer."

Carl DAmmassa, Group Managing Director  Business Finance, Aldermore

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