Last Saturday was St Florian’s Day, the patron saint of fire fighters. St Florian had a distinguished role in the Roman army where he trained a special group of soldiers to fight fires; he was executed for his Christian beliefs in about 304 and, as a martyr, he is patron saint of Austria. He is also a patron of chimney sweeps and brewers.
The Malvern Fire Station https://www.hwfire.org.uk/about-us/the-fire-service/fire-stations/malvern/, an important operation for Hereford & Worcester Fire & Rescue Service, marked St Florian’s Day with a parade to commemorate firemen from the station who had died in service. The Station Commander, Stewart Dewar, invited me and Ed Holloway, High Sheriff of Worcestershire to attend, but in the event only I was able to be there. After an informal inspection of the station’s impressive range of equipment, including a Scania Fire engine, a Land Rover and an Argocat, which is essential for work on the Malvern Hills, Stewart called the assembled group of serving and retired firemen to order and recited the names of the men who had died while firefighting, emphasising the risks that all firemen take to keep people safe from fire. A minute’s silence was observed, and fire siren then sounded for 15 seconds.
It was a short, but moving and professionally delivered ceremony, which I was honoured to have been invited to attend. The Malvern Fire Station gives local people, on both side of the Hills, an excellent service.
For the last 9 weeks (three hours every Wednesday afternoon), the National Trust team at Berrington Hall https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/berrington-hall has been working on a project led by Toni Cook to involve local young people introduced by SHYPP-Supported Housing for Young People Project https://www.wmhousing.co.uk/my-landlord/shypp/ to tell the stories of Berrington Hall in poetry and prose. Last night, they performed at four strategic sites around the house, including on the front steps below the impressive portico, in front of a crowd of local guests. It was an impressive production, and smoothly delivered on a beautiful evening.
Toni Cook had encouraged and led the performers in researching and the writing about the characters and some of the objects, notably a gold dress, that were preserved in the collection After the final act, as it were, we were shown an atmospheric video of the house and park.
Ana Vaughan, the manager of Berrington Hall, said the project had been very worthwhile and had resulted in better engagement with local people who might not otherwise have come to Berrington and appreciated its beauty and interest-a great result, and great for the performers too.
Lucy & I attended the service of thanksgiving for Sue Boulter’s year in office on 14th April at St Peter’s Church, Hereford. She has been the 637th mayor of Hereford and has much enjoyed her year’s work: the church dates from the Middle Ages.
We met in the Mayor’s Parlour where several other mayors from Herefordshire, including the new Junior Mayor for Hereford, had gathered as well as a civic delegation from Jaworzno in Poland. We processed to the church for a service taken by the Revd Andy Morgan, supported by Prebendary Rob North, the mayor’s Chaplain. Sue has supported youth charities in her year and so there were two presentations from Aspire www.aspireliving.org.uk and Close House https://closehouse.org/ , which is located next to the church in the old vicarage.
Nat Hone, my predecessor as High Sheriff, read a lesson. Music was provided by piano, a youth group and organ (for the National Anthem only). We visited Close House after a delicious tea in the church at the end of the service and saw the excellent work that the charity does on behalf of local young people. It was an inspiring service and visit.
On 12th April, I attended two declarations, in Llanfair Caereinion for David Peate and in Worcester for Edward Holloway. There were interesting variations between the two events, although the end results were identical.
In Powys, we assembled in St Mary’s Church, where the declaration was presided over by the Revd Yaqoob Khushi, the new High Sheriff’s chaplain, and the Rt Hon Lord Lloyd Jones, a Justice of the Supreme Court. It was a well-attended service, with David Peate’s daughter playing the harp beautifully before and during the service, when she accompanied the tenor Edryd Williams. I tried to follow the Welsh version of a hymn to the tune of Cwm Rhondda, but I had to rely on volume rather than accuracy as far as joining in was concerned.
In Worcester, the declaration was held in Court No 1 in the Shirehall. Lucy & I were seated, along with other current or former High Sheriffs, in the dock, a unique experience, I hope. Sir Andrew McFarlane, President of the Family Division, and the Revd Anne Potter, Chaplain to the new High Sheriff, Edward Holloway, presided and led the prayers respectively. Again, the event was well attended by civic dignitaries, the Police and other emergency services as well as several former High Sheriffs willing and able to offer helpful advice and the Lord Lieutenant. Edward Holloway and I hope to make some joint visits together in our year as there is some overlap between our two counties.
Karen Usher DL, a driving force behind the establishment of NMiTe (New Model in Technology & Engineering), invited me to meet the Design Cohort and view the former Robert Owen Academy buildings which will become the main NMiTE site off Blackfriars in the centre of Hereford.
The Design Cohort works on several topics that range from ideas on student life (health, sports, culture, community) to input on the delivery of the curriculum; how students will be assessed; student accommodation; academic buildings and equipment; community relations; marketing and more. They are in teams of 5 and work in open-plan offices on St Peter’s Square. The team members are a mixture of gap-year students and graduates, from a range of disciplines. They are 25 in total, paid for their work and an almost equal balance of genders.
It is a pioneering project for the UK, where aspiring students have never previously had the chance to design their future studying environment. To judge by the enthusiasm of the group and the quality of their output, it is working well. The space at the former Academy has great potential, and it will soon be clear how it can best be refurbished and used. NMiTE will be a great boost to Hereford and, it is hoped, engineering companies seeking talented and committed recruits for their key sector in the British economy.
My first appointment after my Declaration was to attend the opening of the Bromyard Festival of Speed. As I normally attend the Bromyard Gala with a steam engine, the event promised to be quite a contrast.
Lucy & I met Roger Page, the Mayor, and his consort, Clare Davies, with the mayoral party at the Falcon Hotel for refreshments before being led up the street by his town crier, Peder Neilsen, for the start of the festival, preceded by photographs. Shortly afterwards, an impressive stream of vintage cars roared, if that is possible at 30mph, past, making the drivers and the and admiring crowds very happy. The cars ranged from Rolls Royce’s to an Austin 7.
Events like this are an important part of the mix of attractions Herefordshire can offer visitors, and the centre of Bromyard makes an excellent backdrop. Up to 10,000 have attended the event in the past, bringing good business to the town. Plenty of cakes and tea were on offer at the Royal British Legion, under the watchful eye of Major (Retd) Jan Brodie-Murphy.
James Hervey-Bathurst CBE DL , in Court number 1 at the Shirehall in Hereford, made the oath as laid down in the 1887 Sheriffs Act before The Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire The Dowager Lady Darnley, the Vice-Lord Lieutenant and many of the Deputy Lieutenants, neighbouring High Sheriffs and many past High Sheriffs, The Vice Chair of Hereford Council, The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Hereford, the Mayors of the Herefordshire market towns, The Bishop of Hereford, the Bishop of Ludlow, the Precentor of Hereford Cathedral, the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Chief Constable of West Mercia, Superintendent Thomas (the Senior Police Officer for Herefordshire), a senior representative of the Fire & Rescue Service, a number of her Majesty’s distinguished judges, magistrates, the coroner and other distinguished guests.
Sir Geoffrey Vos, The Chancellor of the High Court of England and Wales, presided over the ceremony and addressed the company.
Thus James is for the time being at Her Majesty’s pleasure the High Sheriff of Herefordshire.
A Festival of Artist Blacksmithing was organised by Hereford Bid and the Hereford College of Arts. This runs from 5th to 14th April at various venues in Hereford City. mostly in the Maylord shopping centre and is a mixture of exhibitions and presentations and the opportunity to have a go yourself.
Paul Mikula, a South African Blacksmith designed a piece called “African Sun Mandela”, which was assembled by students from the HCA and I saw at the Maylord Shopping centre in Gomond Street. It is magnificent.
Ambrose Burne, a lecturer at the HCA, set a challenge for students world-wide to make the most of a piece of metal 150mm by 20mm by 20mm. It attracted more than 200 entries which are on exhibition throughout the week before they go on tour. The creativity and the beauty of the results left me open-mouthed. As the last event for this High Sheriff before handing over to his successor in about an hour’s time, it was a great finale.
This will be the last entry from this High Sheriff as the baton is passed to the next High Sheriff, James Hervey-Bathurst, tomorrow night. I attended the 2018 SSAFA AGM a couple of days before my declaration so I am starting and finishing with this event. It is a perfect sample of what we have seen during the year. So many people doing so much for others in need for little to no reward.
Stephen Richards, acting director of Client Services at the SSAFA Central Office, addressed the meeting. It is clear that the Herefordshire branch of SSAFA is seen as a shining beacon of what a branch should be, thanks to its leadership and volunteers. It was also good that Stephen himself is clearly so dedicated to the job. There is much to do to look after veterans and their families. “Veterans” implies old people but there are plenty of young people too, recently leaving the armed forces who need their help too. There are many in Herefordshire and not all are known to any organisation, amazingly.
The Branch is in good heart and was warmly praised by Lady Darnley, Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Herefordshire, who is the Branch President and a fervent supporter of their work.
Some long service awards were presented. One was for 30 years service.
On Tuesday and Wednesday night at the Shirehall, Hereford, the Herefordshire Youth Music held their Spring Concerts.
On Tuesday, we heard the Brass and Concert Bands. First on were the Intermediate Concert Band with four pieces including Modest Mussorgsky’s A Night on a Bare Mountain. Next was the Youth Brass Bands with eight pieces. I particularly enjoyed Mack the Knife. The Junior Concert Band gave us four pieces, arrangements of songs that we knew well and loved. Finally, The Herefordshire Youth Concert Band gave us three pieces, starting with excerpts from the Rite of Spring under the baton of Encore’s very own Cliff Woollard. This is a very dissonant piece with lots of changes in tempo – difficult and played very well. After a piece from Delibes’ ballet, Sylvia, we ended with a bang with music from the film, The Incredibles.
On Wednesday, it was the turn of the Strings, Beginner Ensembles and the Herefordshire Youth Choir. Tonight, many of the players were smaller than their instruments. We started with the Starter Concert Band with three pieces : Handel then Beethoven and, by way of contrast, Pirates of the Caribbean. Next were the Starter Strings with a Polka, a Calypso and a Quickstep. The future dance band in the Green Dragon on a Saturday night? The Junior Strings started with a stately Pavane, then Molly Malone’s Cockles and Mussels, followed by the delightfully named Scottish Brawl. Sadly, the Scottish wife was not there to hear this tribute to her countryfolk.
The Ukulele Ensemble (21 listed in the programme so a lot of ukuleles) started with Supercalifragilisticexpealidocious. Hopefully, I will be the only High Sheriff in the UK who has this word in their blog. This was followed by “I have a Dream”, “500 Miles” and a Gospel trio with some of the Herefordshire Youth Choir. The rest of the Herefordshire Youth Choir then sang three pieces and the Intermediate Strings finished the concert with another three pieces.
Herefordshire is the Music County.