Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Friendly Guildhall times are here again!

WE'VE got our town back! This seemed the overriding impression from many who attended last week’s ceremony in which Owen Lovell was installed as mayor.

I’m not sure we ever lost our town, although sometimes it seemed like it. Let’s just say we mislaid it over the last four years.

Attendance at the mayor-making ceremony was one of the largest for many years. In recent times we were told that numbers had to be restricted because of health and safety issues. Strange they were not implemented last Wednesday.

It was definitely a much friendlier atmosphere than had been experienced  in the Guildhall of late with a good deal of humour in the speeches. The toast list consisted almost entirely of locals,  which was probably deliberate on Owen’s part to ensure a few laughs. Having sat on both sides of the press bench, over the years I have proposed all the toasts.   

On this occasion I was given the task of toasting the town of Lyme Regis which gave me the opportunity to  pose the question: what makes a great town?  I settled for three main attributes: its location, its organisations and its people.  As far as location is concerned, Lyme is fortunate and sits way out in front. With 60 or 70 organisations in the town, community spirit is always going to be strong and on the people front I was able to dispel recent talk of incomers (a horrible word) being discriminated against.

I was able to emphasise that Lyme benefited greatly by those who retire to the town to use their life skills to enhance the quality of life in Lyme, specifically mentioning people like Denis Yell, who heads up the Community Land Trust, David Edwards, running the Marine Theatre Trust in difficult circumstances, and Chris Boothroyd, who virtually single handedly raised £200,000 to equip the new Jubilee Pavilion. I was sure they never felt discriminated against.

And I had a special mention for town crier Alan Vian who with his wife, Lynne, does so much, especially during the summer months, to make Lyme the place that it is. 

These people make a real difference to their adopted town and could never be considered to be outsiders.

Acceptance speeches at mayor-making ceremonies are usually fairly uncontroversial but Owen pulled no punches,  making it clear that examples of recent “bad business practices” would not be repeated on his watch.  

And he made it crystal that when councillors fall out - and they will - there would be no recriminations. Good to hear.

From an organisational point of view, the evening went splendidly well and for that town clerk John Wright, administration officer Adrianne Mullins and their staff deserve every credit.

The new council will soon be appointing four co-opted members to get back to 14- strong. They will be faced with a number of challenges over the coming weeks but if mayor-making is anything to go by, Lyme council will surely be back on song.

LYME’S new Church Cliff Walk - the name for the new seawall protecting the eastern cliffs of Lyme - will be officially opened next Wednesday.

With the project being pioneered by West Dorset District Council, it is only fitting their new chairman, Cllr Peter Shortland, should perform the honours. They’ve done Lyme proud.

With Phase IV of the coast protection scheme now completed and adding greatly to the amenity of the town, Lyme Regis looks forward to the Cobb getting similar attention.

Celebrating 35 years of friendship in sport...

IN 1980 a party of footballers from Lyme Regis and their manager crossed the English Channel to play a game of football against a village in Normandy we had never heard of.

We knew very little about Creully. For many it was the first time they had trodden on French soil.  

We played our game, enjoyed a barbecue and were introduced to the evils of Calvados for the very first time.

This was just 36 years after D-Day when memories of the war were still very raw in Northern France.  Creully was one of the first villages to be liberated.

We were taken to the Normandy beaches, an experience which had a profound effect on many of us. We learned of  great suffering experienced by the people of Normandy during the invasion.  

On many occasions since we have honoured the young men of the Allies who gave their lives to free Europe from tyranny.  On our last trip to Creully we visited some of the war graves of the men of Lyme, some of whom played for Lyme Regis Football Club, who made the ultimate sacrifice.  It was a moving experience.

Thirty five years later – in this the 70th anniversary of Victory in Europe - this unique twinning arrangement is as strong as ever. 

During that time many friendships have been made which have lasted the test of time. We have enjoyed many happy occasions and some sad times. After so many years we know our bond will not be broken and we know our friendship will endure. 

So with these thoughts in mind we welcome our French friends to Lyme Regis again this coming weekend for the 35th anniversary of our twinning.

We will mark the occasion  with a celebratory dinner at the golf club.

And we will drink a toast or two - probably more - to 35 years of friendship in sport.

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