David Clarke – Newcastle Borough Councillor writes
Each year Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council elects two of its sixty serving councillors to be civic dignitaries. The Mayor and Deputy-Mayor take an oath to uphold historic traditions, promote the good name of the Borough, and carry out their duties diligently and impartially.
Following their installation, each appointee shoulders an official chain of office and becomes a member of an exclusive group, plainly referred to by Mayors and Consorts as ‘the chain gang’.
The Mayor-making was the first and only occasion that I resorted to nepotism by announcing my wife as Mayoress. I re-appointed the macebearers; chose my friend as High Constable and appointed my chaplain from the Salvation Army. The latter appointment was in recognition of the Salvation Army’s dedicated and caring work in helping the less fortunate within our Borough.
Being Mayor is a life-enhancing experience, full of fascinating history and packed with interesting engagements. I was immensely fortunate to have an indispensable team of experienced officers, highly knowledgeable in civic matters, who guided me and organised all my engagements; making sure I always arrived at functions in the right place and at the right time.
The Mayor, as Chairman of the Council, must play host at civic and charity functions; make speeches; write articles; welcome overseas visitors; read lessons in church; attend theatrical, orchestral and choral concerts; visit hospitals, care homes, schools, playgroups, sports meetings, appear at charities, galas, fairs and art exhibitions and officiate at award ceremonies.
In 2007, for the sixth successive year, Newcastle won the regional Britain in Bloom Small City Gold award and I presented trophies and certificates to successful participants. Likewise, at the Borough‘s annual sports and athletics awards evening, I met and congratulated athletes, coaches and organisers for excellence and personal achievements and presented cups and certificates of merit. In recognition of the Civic Society’s distinguished service to conservation of the Borough’s heritage, it was my privilege to award special certificates of commendation to two of its members for their outstanding contributions.
At Keele Hall, the Mayor traditionally hosts distinguished guests from local authorities in Staffordshire to raise funds for charity. We accompanied them around the New Victoria Theatre and showed them the Dorothy Clive Gardens.
Local voluntary groups were invited to the Mayor’s parlour, including the ‘Churches Together in Newcastle’; the Salvation Army; St. John Ambulance; local schools and youth organisations; A.T.C.; Scouts, cubs, Guides and Brownies; representatives of the Parish Councils within the Borough; Rotary and senior citizens groups. We attended military displays at Stafford and Tamworth and invited the army to visit Newcastle. Altogether, we took part in 284 engagements; conveying official thanks to organisations for their selfless efforts in helping the Council achieve its aims.
The Mayor’s fundraising for local charities collects on average in excess of ten thousand pounds. 2007 was no exception. The “Peter Pan” Adventure Playground for Special Needs Children, based in Newcastle and the local branch of Cystic Fibrosis were principal beneficiaries; among with local schools and churches, St. John Ambulance and the Red Cross..
The highlight of the year was the Queen’s State Visit to the National Arboretum for the opening of the armed Services memorial. It was a deeply moving service as was the Remembrance Day parade in Newcastle when almost 1000 people attended.
It was a great honour and privilege to be invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. I tell everyone that being Mayor of the Loyal and Ancient Borough is an unforgettable and life enhancing experience and great fun, especially when with children.