There were various council related things in my diary for the first half of the week, but my mayoral duties didn’t really start until Thursday.
Thursday was the occasion of the latest (usually monthly) Citizenship Ceremony at County Hall in Trowbridge. These ceremonies are, as the name suggests, the final step in conferring British Citizenship on those who have successfully applied for it. The ceremony is conducted by a Registrar but also attended by a Deputy Lieutenant of Wiltshire (representing the King) and the Mayor of Trowbridge (representing the civic authority of the town).
I, like my predecessor Cllr Graham Hill before me, have tended to alternate attendance at these ceremonies with my Deputy Mayor. One of the reasons for this is that these ceremonies are always very happy and affirming events. Everyone there is only attending because they, or a family member, has reached the culmination of what can be a long and arduous process. The events are guaranteed to be a pleasure to attend because everyone there has put a lot of time and effort into making sure they’re entitled to be there. They’re not just happy to be there….. they’re really positive about being there.
During the ceremony, both the Deputy Lieutenant and I are invited to say a few words to the new Citizens.
I’ll be totally honest and admit that up to now I’ve tended to recycle the same “speech” for each and every ceremony that I attend. This isn’t just laziness on my part, since I’ve been attending these ceremonies (and that’s a year and a half now if you include my term as Deputy Mayor last year) I’ve realised that the words that I came up with for the very first event that I was at have (with a few minor tweaks along the way) worked well and remained relevant…. and up until now I’ve worked on the premise of “if it ain’t broke, why fix it”.
BUT…. I suppose it’s now time for some new words for my last six months as Mayor, so I thought that as I’ll now never use this one again, and as it’s stood me in good stead for so long, I’d share it with you today….
Mayor of Trowbridge’s address to new Citizens
Good afternoon everyone…. and, for those of you who have travelled to be with us today, may I just say “Welcome to Trowbridge”.
Some of you may have only lived in Britain for a relatively short time, some may have been here for many years, even decades, but you all share one thing.
Today marks the start of a new chapter in your life.
Today you turn a page and walk out of this room as citizens of the United Kingdom.
But that doesn’t mean that you should now close the pages on your past lives. It just means that the next chapter in your story will be filled with new experiences, new opportunities and new fulfilments.
I would urge you never to forget your roots. You should celebrate and embrace all that is good about your heritage whilst you look forward to all that is still to come as citizens of this country.
Britain is a land steeped in rich history. It is built on the experiences, traditions, wisdom and knowledge brought here by people who, across the millennia, have chosen to make this country their home.
The Britain that we know today would not be the country it is without the influence of the Romans, Saxons, Danes, Normans and Hanoverians who came to rule over us.
Nor would we have our traditions of entrepreneurship and religious freedom without the Huguenots, the European Jews, the Ugandan Asians and, more lately, the Ukrainians and Hong Kong Chinese who have escaped persecution and conflict in order to make this land their land.
Here in Wiltshire, we would not have the heritage and history…. even the place names…. that we do without the influence of the Romans, the Saxons and the Danes.
What I’m trying to say is that you are the latest in a long line of people stretching back well over two millennia who have chosen to make this island their home.
All those people across all those years brought their own stories and experiences with them…. stories and experiences that didn’t just add to our country’s collective heritage but helped enrich our lives and expand our horizons.
Today that baton is passed to you…. and I welcome you to your future as British citizens.
Thursday’s Citizenship Ceremony was followed by a quick meeting between Aby Cooper (who manages our town council Information Team), Rose Church (my Mayoral Cadet) and myself. The reason for this get-together was to go over the arrangements, running order and protocols for Sunday’s Service of Remembrance at St James’ Church. Rose and I really needed to know when and where we were expected to be and do.
I’ll let you know how that day all went in next week’s blog!
On Friday evening I, along with my wife, attended the Trowbridge French Twinning Association’s Autumn Dinner at St John’s Church Hall in Upper Studley. The evening was billed as being “Basque themed” and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The food was delicious, the company entertaining, and the conversation was both interesting and lively.
I was there as the Association’s Honorary President, and I can honestly say that is an honour to be associated with this and the other groups in the town where I have an ex-officio role. Without such community involvement and engagement, the town would be so much poorer.
Saturday of course was Armistice Day. What started as an annual event to commemorate, honour and hopefully learn from, the lives lost during the First World War has evolved over the years into an almost global act of remembrance and honour for all those whose lives have been, and continue to be, cut short by war and conflict.
Here in the UK this national act of remembrance is usually overseen by the Royal British Legion, and here in Trowbridge the local branch of the RBL, along with representatives of Armed Services veterans associations, turned out at 11:00am on Saturday 11th November at the War Memorial in the Town Park to publicly remember and honour those who’ve died in war.
The significance of the time and date of Armistice Day…. the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month is that that was the moment in 1918 that the guns finally fell silent. World War One was called by various names in the years to follow including the Great War for Civilization and the War to End all Wars. The awful reality is that it was neither of those things. Wars continued….. WW2, Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia, the Gulf Wars, Afghanistan, Iraq….. and they continue today in Ukraine and the Middle East.
I think it is highly appropriate to just pause here for a minute and publicly thank the Royal British Legion for all they do for veterans of our armed forces, not just on this one day a year, but tirelessly all year round.
There were about one hundred and fifty people there on Saturday to witness this act of remembrance on Armistice Day…. but many, many, more….. well over a fifteen hundred…… were at the War Memorial the following day for the laying of wreaths on Remembrance Day (always the second Sunday in November).
But wait…. like I said earlier…. that’s a story for next week’s blog.
One more thing though from Saturday, after the act of remembrance I had the opportunity to meet with our “Shining Star” for 2023, Amy Cottle and her mum. Amy will be with us next Friday evening in Fore Street when she throws the switch and turns on the town’s Christmas Lights. But Amy’s full story and reasons she’s so deserving of her role as Trowbridge’s Shining Star will also have to wait for next week’s blog!
As this week draws to a close, I can’t help but wonder whether we’ll ever learn to live in peace with each other. Maybe I’m naïve, but I so hope we do one day.
That’s it for now, so until next time….. keep safe and please, be kind to each other.
Image Courtesy of Kevin Hartley