10 Jan Final quarter report of 2019
My first event of October was to present the awards at the Drapers Company Young Textile Design Competition in Shrewsbury. So many talented young people and the standard of work was incredible. The following night I attended a concert raising funds in support of the Shropshire Rural Communities Charity. Gruffydd Wyn was the star turn, a young lad from Anglesey who was in last year’s final of Britain’s Got Talent; he has a voice that makes the hairs on your arms stand up and had the entire audience captivated.
On 14th October I was honoured to present a BEM to John Minor in recognition of his many years of service to Wrekin District Council and his local Parish Council; his family were present and very emotional with pride. I believe we made the presentation a moment he will treasure.
On 17th October there were train strikes and so the travel arrangements for the visit being made by HRH The Duke of Gloucester to the Severn Valley Railway at Bridgnorth had to be hastily re-jigged. Train timetables and the police escort this end were able to change their plans at 7am. He arrived to present Volunteer Long Service Awards and Apprentice Certificates and to open the new refreshment room. From there HRH went to Bridgnorth Town Hall, a museum of local history where the Mayor and other local dignitaries and volunteers were presented to him. The Duke then met the owner and staff of the Cliff Railway which is considered to be England’s oldest and steepest funicular electric railway. It links the Low Town with the High Town and The Duke enjoyed a ride from top to bottom. The same evening I presented awards at the ARIES ceremony at RAF Shawbury – awards for recognition of Innovation, Excellence and Service.
At the AGM of the Shropshire Youth Association, we recognised the achievement of young people and voluntary leaders with certificates.
The county of Shropshire is divided almost equally by the ecclesiastical dioceses of Lichfield and Hereford. Some might say I am unlucky in that I have to travel East and South in order to visit both but I see it as a bonus to have some good things in pairs! I visited Hereford Cathedral on 24th October where the charming Dean gave me an excellent guided tour and history lesson, followed by lunch with the Lord-Lieutenant of Herefordshire whom I regard as my mentor and who is always so helpful in answering any questions I have. In fact, she dug me out of a hole when I arrived at a Royal Garden party with a pair of trainers I had been wearing for crossing London, and with nowhere to dump them at the last minute she squeezed them into her handbag.
The Freemasons of Shropshire invited me to attend their own celebration event to announce their successful conclusion of a five-year appeal to raise funds for local and Masonic charities – the amazing figure of just over one million pounds was achieved which will be distributed in the coming months.
A new initiative in Shropshire recently launched is the Care Leavers Covenant which aims to break the cycle of children leaving the care system as they reach adulthood and getting involved in crime. Shropshire has almost 400 children in the care system and on average 30 leave the system each year at the age of 18. The covenant invites individuals and local companies to mentor the young people and guide them to find apprenticeships and jobs and support them through the first few years.
At the end of October together with one of my DLs, I met members of the Woodland Trust at their National Forest in Leicestershire to discuss the lieutenancy being involved in a project to plant millions of trees to celebrate Her Majesty’s Platinum anniversary in 2022. This will be a brilliant project to engage the whole county with people of all ages so we look forward to taking part.
My husband Johnny and I were thrilled to receive the invitation to a reception at Buckingham Place for retiring and new Lord-Lieutenants. We were there with my predecessor Sir Algernon Heber-Percy who has been a mine of information and advice. I was honoured and privileged to have the opportunity to speak to Her Majesty and discuss our mutual love of horses which I very much hope will play a part in a future visit to Shropshire.
Mid-November was dominated by various Festivals of Remembrance and the church services around the country. I am pleased to say that nearly all of my Deputy Lieutenants attended a service and laid a wreath.
I have accepted several invitations to carol services in December, one of the most memorable was the Advent service for Hereford Cathedral Perpetual Trust held at The Guards’ Chapel in Wellington Barracks at which I was honoured to read a lesson.
The Royal Irish Regiment marched through the local town of Market Drayton on 7th December for the Mayor and I, along with many of the town’s residents and soldiers’ families, were there to welcome them home following a tour of duty in Afghanistan. I was very pleased to be present to say a few words of welcome and support for them all.
Derwen College in Gobowen provides residential further education for students with disabilities and learning difficulties. I attended the students’ Christmas Show one evening which was a brilliant, very loud, fun and inspirational show. The staff obviously know how to encourage each student to give of their best and it was such an uplifting evening for all their families and friends.
And so concludes my first year in office as Lord-Lieutenant. An amazing year of learning, meeting people from all walks of life and feeling humbled by the amount of volunteering in the county. When asked, I always tell everyone that I have the very best job in Shropshire; what is there to not like about such a positive role for which so many are kind enough to express appreciation?