This is my last blog as Mayor of Worcester. It has been extremely busy but also a very happy, satisfying and rewarding year. As I have said before “The Mayoralty is not just one person….it is a team. For most of the engagements Jane has been there with me in prominent patient support and not just as the guardian of the mayoral chain. Susan O’Kane, my PA, has been wonderful making the task fun and rewarding. Her guidance has been invaluable. My sword bearer, Frank, and ceremonial officers give symbolic protection to the Mayor appearing with pride on all civic occasions. The Guildhall attendants are always there assisting with courtesy and style recognised and much appreciated by visitors from all over the world.
Jane and I extend our thanks to everyone throughout this City who has helped make our time in office so memorable.
Tuesday 8th: On 4th August 1914 a terrible event took place and the First World War was declared. Four years of carnage followed until 11 November 1918. In those years more than 70 million military personnel were mobilised to fight in one of the largest wars in history. More than nine million soldiers never returned home and many Worcestershire men and women were among them. Here in the Guildhall all of those who served from Worcester in the Great War are recorded.
For many months now a group, under the Chairmanship of the Mayor, has been meeting to consider how we might commemorate the Centenary, in August 2014, of the outbreak of the Great War. I am so grateful to those who have already assisted including Lord Faulkner, Cllr. Roger Berry our Deputy Mayor, Rev. Canon Paul Tongue from the Cathedral, members of the Royal British Legion and many others. A plethora of ideas have come forward…A Stuttard-Kennedy exhibition and trail, theatre performances, war films, an Edwardian fete, and so on. We are already registered with the Imperial War Museum and Worcester is ahead of the game when it comes to this planning. But most importantly I am calling on local people to contribute their ideas too being keen that our commemorations will engage young people particularly. There is still plenty of time to come forward with ideas and we will carefully consider every suggestion. A small prize will be offered for the best suggestion of an event – the deadline to receive suggestions is Saturday 30 June 2012. We are also inviting members of the public who are interested in helping to plan a commemorative event. It could be an exhibition, tour, theatre production or display of WW1 memorabilia. For example I have three Field Service Post Cards dated 26.09.16, 30.10.16 and 19.11.16 sent by “Billy” to a young lady in London. Each card is preprinted and “Billy” was allowed only to strike out the words that did not apply…no additional words were permitted.
This morning, accompanied by Lord Faulkner of Worcester who came specially, I launched, in the Guildhall, the public planning process and appeal for ideas.
Two weeks ago I welcomed a small group of visually impaired students from New College Worcester to the parlour. Today they came for the second half of their educational study of the Guildhall. This time we talked more about the Guilds of Merchants that were established in the Guildhall after the charter granted by Henry III in 1226, the lists of those who served in the First World War, the huge collection of fire buckets hung on the south wall of the Lower Hall and of course we descended to the cells.
It’s mayor-making time again. Jane and I were honoured to be invited to attend Tewkesbury Abbey for the Annual Meeting and Mayor-Making Ceremony for Tewkesbury Borough Council. It was a great occasion in that wonderful building that we have never entered before. Over this last year we have come to know very well the outgoing Mayor, Cllr. David Waters and his Mayoress, Mrs. Sue Waters. We wish the newly elected Mayor, Cllr. Philip Surman and his Mayoress, Mrs. Diana Surman, a happy and enjoyable year in office.
Wednesday 9th: Charity shops have sprung up in many places and have become an important part of the local economy as well as gathering financial resources for a huge range of important causes. We are in “Choose Charity Shops Week” and Jane and I were pleased to go along to the Cats Protection Charity Shop in St. John’s to help publicise their and other charities’ work and role.
Later in the morning we were back at the Guildhall to receive the newly engraved “Peplow Trophy” from Dr. John Prosser, the President of Worcester South Rotary Club. The “Peplow Trophy” is a frying pan that the Mayor’s team won in the pancake race on Shrove Tuesday, 21st February. That really has to be one of the highlights of this year!!
For a long time I have held the view that the contributions made by the City of Worcester to medical science and care have been insufficiently celebrated. The story goes back at least a thousand years. Looking into this further I realised that there was a long list of potential topics. Therefore it was a great thrill for me to introduce what I hope is the first public Annual Worcester Medical Lecture arranged between the Mayoralty and the University of Worcester. Professor Richard Lewis gave this inaugural lecture in the Guildhall to an audience of almost 100. He traced, with great skill, the history of medicine in Worcester up to the present with many illustrations of portraits from the Board Room of the old Worcester Royal Infirmary and now part of the City Campus of our University. Sir Charles Hastings, who founded the British Medical Association in that very board room, would have been proud of his City. The funds raised this evening go to the Mayor’s charities’ appeal.
Thursday 10th: Susan O’Kane (my PA) and I met Richard Vernalls (“Worcester News” reporter) to brief him about the plans for the military parade through Worcester on Wednesday 27th. June. This will be in the run-up week to Armed Forces Day on Saturday 30th June. The event will be quite spectacular with 780 soldiers of the Mercian Regiment, Queen’s Royal Hussars and Grenadier Guards and their bands.
Later in the day I had a call from Hereford and Worcester BBC to make a telephone recording concerning these celebrations on 27th. June.
The staff of the Guildhall have been so helpful over this last mayoral year making it enjoyable, happy and rewarding. As a “Thank you” I entertained them (about 30) to dinner in the Parlour. Great company.
Friday 11th: Up early as I had a 7:30am. appointment in the Hereford and Worcester BBC studios for a live interview about the parade through the City on 27th June.
I note that “The Worcester Standard” has produced a full page for our year. Thanks Tim (Tim Clark, Editor).
The “Berrow’s Journal” has me on the front page: “Stop moaning and be proud City”…… a little journalistic licence taken there with my original words!! I have had several messages of agreement and none against so far.
One of the pleasures of being Mayor is to attend mayor-making ceremonies in local towns…..traditions that go back hundreds of years. This evening Jane and I went to Bewdley Guildhall for the Annual Meeting of the Town Council and Election of Mayor. Cllr. John Latham was elected as the new mayor and we wish him well for his year in office.
Saturday 12th: The Railway Development Society Limited held its Annual General Meeting in the Guildhall and I was honoured to welcome the members:
“Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen.
“Thank you so much for inviting the Mayoress and me to your AGM.
Welcome to the Guildhall and one of the most beautiful buildings in England.
“When I was a teenager I went to school by train, later I went to University on the train and my family went on holiday the length and breadth of the country on the train taking our car on the Car Rail Service…. no longer available. So if you want my support for the development of railways you have it. And not just for nostalgic reasons.
“There is a link between this building and railways.
Alexander Sherriff was Mayor of Worcester for two years between 1862 and 1864. He was Chairman of the Worcester Engine Works and Director of the Metropolitan Railway, the Metropolitan District Railway and the Metropolitan and St. John’s Wood Railway. In Worcester he helped to develop our railways. While he was Mayor he was given this Mayoral chain and he eventually donated it to the City for all subsequent Mayors to wear. The chain is specially designed to represent the links between railway carriages.
“So what of our current Worcester provision of railway services? Well, at last we have the re-dualling of part of the Cotswold line. The Foregate Street Station is long overdue for a revamp…….sadly we missed out on an opportunity when the central post office closed: I worked hard on that when I was on the City Council’s Cabinet. What a wonderful potential entrance that would have made. Then there is Shrub Hill Station: a place of arrival and on leaving the station what do we see?……..the Elgar building……. The Master Vision for Worcester over the next 30 years sees that disappear with a wide open welcoming space.
“Our roads cannot continue to expand to take all the increasing heavy freight. There must be a way of getting this back onto the railways. As so often is the case the railway does not begin where the freight leaves and neither does it arrive where the businesses require. We have lost the geographical co-ordination and link of railways and freight business needs. So what happens? They take to the over congested roads. What is the answer? A long term vision that will somehow re-establish the link.
“O, Mr. Beeching you have a lot to answer for!!”
This meeting was also addressed by guest speakers who discussed the strategies for rail transport in and around Birmingham as well as the campaign to reopen the Cheltenham to Stratford-upon-Avon line as a through route. I must admit I find the idea very attractive.
A Community Health Club (12a, Shrub Hill Road) has been established by “Positive People Plus”. This is an important venture and I was pleased to “cut the ribbon” to open the facility. I spent much of my professional life as a Consultant Cardiologist seeing and helping people with conditions that could have been avoided or at least reduced in severity if only …… they had not smoked, had kept their weight within healthy bounds, had eaten more sensibly and had taken more and regular exercise. All sections of the population are affected to varying degrees. But this health club is focussing on those who may be less inclined, for various reasons, to attend. If you are unhappy, depressed or socially marginalised it may be that you just cannot be bothered…smoking tends to increase. Junk food becomes the norm….obesity creeps up on you…..taking exercise becomes more difficult. And so we go round in a vicious circle. We cannot afford to ignore this problem especially for the sake of the people themselves whose lives cannot be lived to the full. The country cannot afford to ignore it because the economic consequences are even greater. So I wish “Positive People” every success. For more information see www.positivepeopleplus.com (telephone 01905 22016).
Sunday 13th: The Rev. Clare Griffiths has been appointed as Team Vicar in the Worcester South East Team with responsibility for St. Mark in the Cherry Orchard, with St. Philip and St. James, Whittington. Jane and I were invited to attend her Service of Licensing and Installation at both churches. It was a wonderful sunny morning to welcome her and we wish her well in her ministry.
An “end of term” evening cruise on the River Avon followed by a light supper at “Raphael’s restaurant” at Hampton Ferry, Evesham. For the mayor and mayoress of Evesham and the rest of the “chain gang” this annual event is arranged by Cllr. Mrs. Diana Raphael. A most relaxing end to what has been a hectic year.
On Tuesday evening of 15th May the Full City Council will elect a new mayor. Jane and I wish whomever takes over as good and happy a year in office as we have had.