Brenda M Mathews

Location: Burgess Hill, West Sussex
About me...

I began collecting souvenir and commemorative handkerchiefs as a child and have enjoyed speaking about them for over twenty years.  I am registered with West Sussex, East Sussex and Surrey W.I. Federations but enjoy showing part of my vast collection to any group, whether large or small.  I love seeing people’s amazement at the variety of subjects depicted on the hankies.  I have had the fun of being interviewed several times on radio and television.     I also give talks unconnected with hankies and these too are always well received.

About my talks...

Mine are “stand alone” light-hearted talks.   Each hanky talk comprises many different examples, all enclosed in plastic folders for ease of handling as I like people to come and have a closer look after I’ve spoken.   I just need two long tables on which to display them – and a glass of water.    For my other talks one table is sufficient, plus the glass of water!    The talks last about 45 minutes to an hour.


£65 inclusive of travel if within 10 miles of Burgess Hill, West Sussex. This fee is for groups with fewer than 50 members. Please enquire about fees for larger groups and longer distances.
Regretfully, no evening talks given between October and March unless local to Burgess Hill.
I am always happy to fill in at short notice if available.

My Contact Details:

01444 243774


They’re Not to be Sneezed at!

This is an entertaining introduction to my souvenir and commemorative handkerchiefs.  I start by showing my original 1950s hankie printed with Sussex views, and then recount the stories behind some of the interesting ones I have brought along.  I now own an amazing 4,600 from all around the world.




Blow by Blow Through the Year

This talk comprises a completely different selection of fascinating hankies relating to all the months and seasons.   There’s Swiss snow-covered mountains representing January, printed and embroidered souvenirs of the Queen’s coronation for June and in December are colourful hankies celebrating Christmas.

My A to Z of Hankies

Here I show yet more unusual hankies, beginning with a man’s large AOFB hanky and finishing with Zodiac signs.  Audiences’ memories are usually stirred by seeing souvenirs of Baden Powell, the Festival of Britain and Wartime handkerchiefs such as the one depicting “Till the Boys Come Home”.





Handkerchiefs Through History

This talk contains fascinating facts about the once not-so-humble handkerchief.  I refer to the various uses and types of handkerchiefs from Roman times through the centuries up until the present day. Along with many other examples, I show some of my oldest and largest ones including William Gladstone’s In Memoriam Handkerchief and a real treasure produced for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee.

Children’s Handkerchiefs

I originally intended this talk for children and would show them the hankies given to me as a child for Christmas and birthdays.  They loved seeing the nursery rhymes, proverbs and times tables printed on them. I took embroidery transfers and silks along, describing how I decorated hankies to give as gifts.  From a book “Out of a Handkerchief” we would follow instructions to fold them into animal shapes.  Since buying some beautiful sets of Mabel Lucie Atwell children’s hankies folded into books I realise that adults too are fascinated, so now also offer it to all audiences. 


Dear Sirs I’ve Found this Hanky

Over the years I have acquired some really intriguing hankies; one embroidered with a rabbit and WLOG and another printed with a portrait of a Cotton Queen.   This talk contains several of them and I recount the fun and frustration I have had when researching them.

My Family’s Love of Words

Since having to copy out and learn poems at senior school, I have continued to note down ones I’ve come across that appeal to me.  In this talk I read some out, together with verses written by members of my own family.  I also relate family anecdotes such as the funny things our grandchildren come out with.

Brickbats and Bouquets

This is a humorous account of the many times I have complained about, and praised, various organisations and people over the years, sometimes about their adverts.   I usually write to them in verse and have received some witty and delightfully worded replies from the recipients.  I particularly treasure the responses from the Queen’s Correspondence Secretary and Dicky Bird.

To Earn an Honest Penny 

From working school holidays in a frozen food factory to being a secretary with British Rail I earnt my wages and saved a little when single.  Once married with children I began looking for part-time jobs and in this talk I take a light-hearted look at the various ways I earned some cash while they were growing up.

Brenda M Mathews Contact Details:

01444 243774


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