Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Our failed attempt to save hospital

I TOOK a call this week from entertainer and former Lyme Regis resident Richard Digance  who wanted to know, for reasons I won’t go into, when we staged a week of entertainment featuring many of his showbiz mates in a bid to save the Lyme Regis Hospital.

Richard, who at the time was one of the most popular light entertainment stars in  the country, with a prime-time Saturday night TV programme, lived in Clappentail Lane with his then wife, Debbie, and two daughters.

We were all keen cricketers at the time, playing at Uplyme, and as one of Richard’s daughters was suffering from a rare form of cancer, we decided we would put on a week of entertainment at the Marine Theatre to raise money for the hospital which had served the town since 1893 at various locations.

I thought it was in the mid-1980s and I contacted former bank manager Keith Jenkin, husband of town councillor Lorna Jenkin, who was chairman of the committee we set up to organise the week which we called “Operation Lyme Regis Hospital”. 

Keith did a bit of asking around and finally came across a copy of the programme and popped it down to the office. The event actually took place in June 1989 and we designated one of the days for an early Christmas celebration with the town shops trimming up, a Christmas children’s parade and carolling with the Town Band on Gunn Cliff - in June!

Richard managed to persuade some of the top names in variety to support the event and appear at the Marine Theatre with comedian Jim Davidson topping the bill. Others included comics Hale and Pace, Jim Bowen (he of Bullseye fame) and West Country favourite Jethro.

Richard, of course, did a couple of shows and other big names included impressionist Mike Osman, singer Elkie Brooks and comedians Dave Lee and Kevin Devane. 

As the proceedings were organised by a group of sports mad young men, the programme featured a number of sporting events, including a football match against Yeovil Town in which a number of the stars and ex-players took part, including Hale & Pace and former England player Gerry Francis with former Chelsea star Peter Osgood in attendance.

There was also a cricket match between a Media XI captained by yours truly and a Celebrity XI led by Richard.

Jim Davidson stayed in Lyme for a day longer than expected to commentate on the match and I shall never forget when he decided to play cricket for the very first time, walking out to bat imitating Second World War flying ace Douglas Bader.

The week was an unforgettable success and we managed to raise £30,000, a lot of dosh in 1989.

We failed miserably in saving the hospital and the money later went into the public fund in support of the town’s new medical centre. 

New town clerk revealed tonight

TOWN councillors will, tonight, be appointing a successor to town clerk Mike Lewis - the ninth to serve the old borough and town since the last war.

Seven candidates were interviewed for the post and a special meeting of the town council will be held tonight to receive the recommendation of the Human Resources Sub-Committee made up of the committee chairmen.

The new town clerk will take over from Mike Lewis in March and will preside over a crucial period for the town council with the possibility of greater responsibilities being handed down to parish level under the Localism Act.

Mr Lewis is retiring having worked for the town council, first as finance officer, succeeding, Eric Griffin, since 1985 and having been appointed to the top job in 1999.

Mike’s predecessor was Nick Cornwall, who went onto to serve as a councillor after resigning from the town clerk’s job.  

Before that and going back to the 1940s, the post was held by Judith Amesbury, Robin Munday, Philip Latham, Harry Williams, Albert Lane and Gilbert Atterbury.

With 14 years of service under his belt Mike will have been one of the longest serving town clerks with only Harry Williams and Gilbert Atterbury wearing the wig and gown for longer periods.

His excellent service to the town will, I am sure, be recognised over the next few weeks as he prepares all the DIY jobs his wife Vivienne, a Lyme girl, lines up for him!

Heroes in their own right

ELSEWHERE in this week's newspaper we report on the financial success of last summer’s Candles On The Cobb.

The event, now established as one of the town’s most spectacular sights, with 5,000 candles illuminating the Cobb, made an incredible £22,000.  

Half of this will be donated to the Help For Heroes charity with the remaining 50 per cent being donated to 15 local youth organisations.

The brainchild of champion fundraisers Phil Street, the town’s former town crier now living and working in France, and assistant harbourmaster Mike Higgs, this unique event has now raised tens of thousands of pounds for good causes since it was first held back in 2000.

Members of the organising committee will next week travel to Teddington House, the H4H flagship recovery centre for those members of the Armed Forces injured in conflict, to present their cheque to Help For Heroes - the second biggest single donation they have ever received.

The next Candles On The Cobb will be held in August 2015 and the planning is already underway for yet another spectacular event which will attract thousands to the town.

Phil and Mike and their band of helpers deserve all the praise that have been heaped on the over the years. They are true local heroes.

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