Tuesday, 8 May 2012

The first Freeman of Beer

ONE of the great pleasures of my job, travelling around the local towns and villages  covering events, is to see at first hand just how much voluntary work goes into the community life of East Devon.

Prime Minister David Cameron thinks he has come up with a good idea with the “Big Society” but as you and I both know, it’s been going on around these parts for many, many years.

I am constantly impressed with the commitment of a large army of volunteers who do so much to make life such a pleasure in this part of the world.

Every town and village has a community hero, someone who goes that extra mile and expects no recognition or reward.

Such a person over the years has been John Wells, pictured below, who retired last year as chairman of Beer Parish Council after ten years in the job.

But John’s service to his adopted village goes back to the mid-1970s and on Saturday, at a special gathering of friends and community representatives, a little bit of Beer history was made: John was installed as the village’s very first Freeman in recognition of his outstanding service to the community over several decades.

Beer is one of those tight-knit communities where the whole village pulls together and John has been at the forefront of village life in many capacities since moving to East Devon from London.

His parish council chairman successor, Martin Richards, explained that the position of Freeman was not just open to councillors but to anyone who had served the village with distinction. The parish council would not necessarily be offering the honour on a yearly basis, but as and when a deserved nomination was received.

It would be difficult to think of a more worthy recipient than John Wells for the first person to be chosen as a Freeman of Beer.

When you are made a Freeman of the City of London you are able to drive your sheep down Fleet Street.

I’m not sure whether John get’s a similar privilege in Beer!

John led the parish council with great dignity for a decade, including hosting a visit from the Princess Royal to open the affordable housing at Short Furlong,  and over the years has also been closely connected with the Beer Heritage Group, the RNLI and the annual Beer Regatta.

He was also greatly involved with the organisation that set up the village’s Christmas lights scheme, the envy of many other communities in East Devon.

It’s never a chore going to Beer so I popped over to the Mariners Hall for Saturday’s ceremony where John received an inscribed citation and a unique Beer stone goblet containing some Beer flint, from Beer Quarry Caves, made by John Scott.

A touch of humour was brought to the proceedings when John was thanking the parish council for bestowing the honour on him, in his usual humble manner, when PC Steve Speariett and a colleague arrived late.

As the two Coppers came through the door, there were cries of “the stripper’s arrived” and “get ‘em off”.

Beer Heritage Group also made a presentation to John - a Harry Hill face mask. Don’t ask me what that was about!

I am all in favour of the award of such honours. People like John Wells - and I could name others in most towns and villages in East Devon - make our communities tick. They all deserve recognition.

Why the skittlers’ big night runs so smoothly

IN my page three From the Editor’s Chair piece in last week’s Pulman’s View, I mentioned that I had been to the annual presentation night of Axminster Skittles League, saying that it was always a pleasure to renew old sporting acquaintances at such events.

Axminster Skittles League is one of the best run in the area, and that is due in no small part to long-serving secretary Les Ellis. Les presides over the presentation night which always goes like clockwork - but there, Les has had a lot of experience. 

He’s been doing the job since I was a young reporter back in the late 1960s, an incredible record of service which I believe is unsurpassed anywhere else in the area.

Where would skittles in the Axminster area be without Les Ellis?


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