Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Who will be the mayor?

WHO’S got the most difficult job in Lyme Regis? No doubt about it - it’s got to be the town clerk.

The incumbent for the past 14 years, the second longest serving to Harry Williams, since the end of the last war, Mike Lewis, retires this week and on Saturday evening at Civic Night bowed out in his usual humble manner.

After hearing a tribute from the Mayor, Councillor Sally Holman, Mike was presented with a Richard Austin print of the town he has served so loyally over the years and replied with a speech full of humour and, understandably towards the end, a little emotion.

His successor, John Wright promoted from Deputy Town Clerk, takes over tomorrow (Thursday) and with the council split asunder by controversy his will be a short honeymoon that’s for sure. But he looks like the sort of chap who can cope.

Much of the bar talk at Civic Night was about who will be chosen at tonight’s council meeting as mayor-elect.

It is not cut and dried and I am reliably informed that there could be a contest. Sally Holman is completing her second two-year term, having just presided over one of the busiest years in Lyme’s recent history with the visit from HMS Edinburgh, the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebration and the Olympic Torch passing through Lyme Regis.

With so many issues dividing the council at the moment, many believe that a steady and experienced hand on the tiller is required.  Deputy mayor Anita Williams has already declared that she is not intending to stand due to her work commitments as a solicitor for Weymouth Borough Council.

So will Sally be persuaded to serve for another year - it’s happened before - or will there be a new face - possibly Chris Clipson, one of the new councillors who came in two years ago whose name has been mentioned in recent weeks?

The next few months will be very challenging for the council with the problems of Monmouth Beach causing much concern and  the declining relationship between the council and the Woodmead Halls Management Committee over the running of the public toilets.

Those who attended Saturday’s Civic Night were greeted with a notice on the front doors of the halls saying that due to a dispute with the council the toilets would be closed to car park users as from April 1st.

I also understand that if a solution is not found before Easter, the halls management committee will also turn off the electricity that serves the car parking machines, which means the council could lose hundreds of pounds in  revenue over the Bank Holiday.
Interesting times.

Civic night was an enjoyable occasion, as always. I was given the honour of paying a tribute to a familiar face missing from this year’s event - Barbara Austin MBE, six times mayor of our town who died after Christmas.

With some councillors determined to downgrade the position of mayor to a ceremonial one, with the appointment of a leader to chair the council, it is unlikely that anyone will ever serve as First Citizen for six years again.

However, that decision might not just rest with members of the council. If there is sufficient feeling in the town, the people of Lyme could well have a major say in how the town is governed in future.

We had so much fun with umpire Jim

LAST week in this column I wrote about the sadness of Lyme’s sporting community following the death of Chris Neale, brilliant golfer and bar steward at Lyme Regis Football Club for many years.

This week I would like to pay tribute another much respected character in sporting circles who died recently. I refer to Jim McMurtry, former RAF sergeant who made his home in Lyme Regis after meeting and marrying a local girl and who was a stalwart of Uplyme and Lyme Regis Cricket Club during my playing days.

Jim graduated from player to committee man and umpire, eventually being honoured with the presidency and being made a life member. Greatly deserved.

We enjoyed so many memorable occasions with Jim out in the middle on glorious hot days (and many rainy ones) as an umpire.

The father of Uplyme opening bat Ian McMurtry, we teased Jim mercilessly if he failed to give Ian out but he always took it in good spirits.

Jim was also a qualified snooker umpire through his connection with the Conservative Club (now defunct) in Lyme.

One unforgettable occasion was when we were organising a two-week sporting festival to raise money for a new pavilion at Uplyme. 

One of the main events was a professional snooker exhibition featuring a former world champion Terry Griffiths. The event was held at the Regent Cinema in front of  a 400-strong audience. We had to put up a light over the snooker table which was built especially for the match, and we did so using a Heath Robinson-type scaffold. 

As the game progressed the light started to sink nearer to the table, resulting in Terry Griffths having to scamper around the table to complete his shots. The sight of Jim trying to keep up with the pros in replacing the balls was hilarious. Happy times.


AFTER covering five pantomimes in February I was in desperate need of a little stage culture. And it came last week with a visit to the Marine Theatre to review Lyme Regis Dramatic Society’s production of “Local Affairs”. 

I’m not sure “culture” is the right word but it was certainly an extremely entertaining evening as the Lyme society enhanced their already considerable reputation with their portrayal of this clever comedy.

I popped down earlier in the week to take a photo at the dress rehearsal and was able to chat to Sylvia Lee who has been connected with the dramatic society since 1962. I was much is awe of Sylvia when I was a young reporter and it’s incredible to think she is still connected wit the society after all these years.

Another long serving member of the society, Anne King, played one of the principal roles in “Local Affairs”. She gave a marvellous performance as the mother-in-law from hell.

Last year the society won an award for “Tons of Money”. Their latest show will surely be just as successful. 

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