| home | search | back |
home > history resources > articles index > reminiscences >  chris gartside

Helmdon Historical Articles

Helmdon Young Husbands - The Early Years

an article by Chris Gartside



Chris Gartside.

When we moved into Helmdon in 1984, we soon became friendly with some of the other incoming families, who were mostly in their late 30s. (That’s the parents, not the children).

Many of the women were quickly enrolled into the “Young Wives”, now renamed Women’s Club. The husbands realised that there was nothing like this for the men and that this situation must be changed. This led to the formation of the Helmdon Young Husbands Organisation (HYHO) at a social gathering. As one founder member put it during his Chairman’s rhyming address at a Ladies Night event in 1989:

            “There’s a South Northants village called Helmdon,

            Where the menfolk had nothing to do,

            So the Helmdon Young Husbands was founded

            At the end of Shaun Sleath’s barbeque.”


Little did we know that HYHO would still be going in 2020 having raised vast amounts of money for charity, among other things.

At the inaugural meeting Richard Thomas was elected as Chairman – none of us realised at the time that Richard was the supreme delegator and that his Chairmanship of several years would result in him doing absolutely nothing himself. The main objective was “to give the opportunity to associate socially with friends on a more frequent basis and also to serve as a spur to do things or go to events that otherwise would not be done by oneself.”  Membership was to be by unanimous vote of the founding team, but this was soon changed to include all kinds of riff-raff.

Regular meetings were arranged where beer was consumed and ideas for social events discussed, many of them wildly optimistic. One such was the intention to club together to buy a chateau in France so that regular holidays for families could be arranged. This was talked about ad infinitum but it never materialised. Ones that did happen included cycling pub crawls, visits to horse racing or cricket matches and theatre trips, all restricted to the men. Family events were arranged, such as a camping weekend, London day trip, boating on the Thames and duty free shopping in France. Invariably these turned out to include experiences which are still talked about today, such as the “School Dinners” evening illustrated. How many of the participants can you identify?

The HYHOs School Dinners eveming. Click to enlarge.

The first of what became annual events took place in February 1989. This was the Ladies Night at the Whately Hall Hotel in Banbury, with mandatory evening dress, 5-course meal and “carriages at midnight”. Some embarrassing photographs may be viewed on request.

Before the annual Helmdon Carnival had to be abandoned, HYHO’s took it upon themselves to create a float each year. This was not with the intention of winning, because that would be too easy, but with the aim of generating laughs, achieving maximum excruciation and creating cross-dressing experiences for the members. As expected we never won, with the reasons given for failure at various times including being “too professional” (?) and offending the judge. On this latter occasion the theme was World War 2, when the HYHO float shown in the picture obliquely referenced the American plane that came down near Astwell.  In this case we pretended that the plane was German and the float was titled “The Last Focke in Helmdon”, but this was misunderstood by the float judge, a former fighter pilot in the RAF.

The Last Focke in Helmdon. Click to enlarge.

Similar dubious taste led to HYHO’s being expelled and banned from the Crown Hotel in Brackley in 1994 – the less said about that the better, but it was the Crown’s loss.

The HYHO Summer Ball in 2012.

In 1989 HYHO’s arranged the first of what was to become, for a few years, an annual Barn Dance, held in a proper barn at Manor Farm. This raised around £1500 for local charities – the equivalent of around £3800 in 2020 – and was the start of a continuing run of similar fund raising events. At the time of writing the total amount raised and donated by HYHO Barn Dances and Summer Balls, including amounts directly earned by the School, is a staggering £77,000.

Many of the original HYHO members have now left the village and the organisation of events is carried out by a younger team. This is done on a very professional basis, which would be unrecognisable to the founders. Long may it continue.

Chris Gartside


home > history resources > articles index > reminiscences >  chris gartside
| home | search | back | top