Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Will Sally be mayor again?

WE are coming to that time of year again when we shall know who the Mayor of Lyme Regis will be for the new civic year, which starts at the end of May.

It has been the custom in past years for the mayor to get a two-year term, although there have been notable exceptions, the most controversial in recent years being Ken Whetlor’s failure to get backing for a second year, unfairly so in my opinion.

Custom and traditions do not command such importance in the council chamber these days so it begs the question whether Sally Holman will get a second year at First Citizen. 

I had my doubts whether Sally was sensible in accepting the mayoral role for a second term last May following a very fractious election. In the end, she was probably the only councillor who would have won enough support to be elected but it was never going to be an easy year with the new councillors finding their feet and determined to force through their agenda for change.

The rumour mill has been working overtime in recent weeks about whether Sally will be granted another year with some councillors being in favour of a downgrading of the position of mayor to a ceremonial one and the mayor’s dual role of chairman of the council being filled by a “leader”. Such a structure operates at Bridport Town Council, not with unqualified success.

Such a move would be strongly opposed by many in the town and would be viewed as a step towards the “politicisation” of Lyme’s fiercely independent local authority.

Although I have never asked her, I doubt whether Sally would be in favour of this course of action as she clearly enjoys the challenging role of chairing the council and taking a lead in the numerous initiatives which makes Lyme such a diverse community.

That is not to say she does not enjoy the ceremonial aspect to the job, as witnessed by her mayor’s announcements at a recent meeting. From December 7th to January 31st Sally attended no fewer than 23 separates events. These ranged from chairing the group planning the visit from a cruise ship in May to attending the Town Band Christmas concert.

During her second term as mayor Sally has received marvellous support from her sister, Jane Whittington, in the role of mayoress. During their first term I labelled them “The Civic Sisters”. I also like the way that Sally invites other councillors, and indeed former councillors, to accompany her at local events when Jane is not available.

When she took on the job Sally knew it would be a difficult year with so many strong characters joining the council with a fierce determination to force through change. She has been wise to navigate a middle course, steering clear of the petty squabbling which is declining as the weeks pass, and concentrating on leading and encouraging a number of groups, within and outside the council chamber, which will see Lyme staging an unprecedented level of events. 

These include the arrival in Lyme of a cruise ship and possibly a naval frigate, the organisation of the celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee (a truly historical event), Lyme’s Olympic Day when the Olympic Torch relay will pass through the town, not to mention the usual summer celebrations, which the mayor always supports – Fossil and Earth Festival, Jazz Blues and Beer Festival, Lifeboat Week, Regatta and Carnival and the ArtsFest, the latter being particularly important to Sally as she is one of the founders.

I hope our councillors will take this into consideration when next month they decide on who will be the mayor elect.

Sure to make his own mark on the history of Lyme Regis

I CAN just about remember Goosey Gollop as Lyme’s town crier when I was a youngster. He was succeeded by George Norman, who I well remember, followed, of course, by Richard Fox and Phil Street.

Richard and Phil took this ancient position to new heights, both winning international and national  honours and in doing so generated publicity for the town on which a value could not be placed or afforded.

Both Richard and Phil were deservedly honoured for their services, Richard being awarded the MBE and Phil being made a Freeman of the Town.

On Saturday our new town crier, Alan Vian, stepped out in a smart new uniform for his first engagement, making a cry from Bell Cliff and receiving an enthusiastic reception as the town’s lifeboat for the last 14 years was paraded through the town before being replaced by a new rescue boat.

Part of Alan’s new uniform was made by Suzanne Whitemore, partner of macebearer Derek Hallett, and he certainly looked the part.

I have no doubt that Alan will join Richard and Phil in writing his own place in the history of Lyme. I believe he is the perfect successor to Phil Street.  Since moving to the town he and his supportive wife Lynne have thrown themselves into the community life of Lyme through the Baptist Church, Regatta and Carnival Committee, Lifeboat Week, Candles On the Cobb and many other groups.

Alan, a former headmaster, is also playing an important role in the organisation of the town’s celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and Lyme’s Olympic Day and he is always on hand to support civic events. 

He has established himself as the “Voice of Lyme Regis” through his commentaries during Lifeboat Week and the Regatta and Carnival and other community events. 

He carries out such duties with dignity and humility and that will be his hallmark of his years as the new Lyme Regis Town Crier.

Let’s hope the Americans are ready!

I JUST love the idea of the Lyme Bay Lovelies Red Hat Society ladies, who bring their sense of fun to many local events, acting as “ambassadors” for Lyme on board the cruise ship which will deliver 100 rich Americans to our shores in May. 

I appreciate that the Red Hat Society was founded the other side of the Atlantic, but are the American cruisers really ready for the Lyme Lovelies?

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