LYME Regis was the first town to confer the Freedom of the Borough on the old Dorset Regiment at a ceremony on the seafront in August 1945, soon after World War Two hostilities had ceased.
The march-past was taken by the First Citizen, Harry Blanchard, after war-time mayor Will Emmett had stood down after six years in the chair.
Hitler intended to launch his invasion of England (named operation Sea Lion) in Lyme Bay, but – it is said – changed his mind when he knew Will Emmett was in charge.
Now you know why our current mayor, Michaela Ellis (nee Emmett), is of such an independent nature.
The traditional symbol of esteem, giving the troops the right to march with fixed bayonets through the town remains to this day, although the county regiment was amalgamated with the Devonshires in 1958 and disbanded to be replaced by The Rifles in 2007.
I can remember at least two occasions the regiment has exercised its right and with the town council planning a programme of events to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War later this year, the mayor is hoping that her invitation to do so again will be accepted.
During my year as mayor in 1985 I had to entertain the regiment on one occasion, although I cannot recall the reason. It could have been the 45th anniversary of the granting of the Freedom of the Borough.
In those days the mayor’s allowance was £350 (now I think it’s around £5,000) and it was customary to have the after-match party at the Royal Lion having been elected.
I went up to pay the bill the next morning and had to write out a cheque for – you’ve guessed it – £350! – leaving me to personally finance any council entertaining and hospitality during the rest of my year in office.
And on the occasion the regiment visited Lyme that year I had to lay on beer and refreshments for all the squaddies who had honoured us with their presence.
To get through the year I ran up an unauthorised overdraft of £1,000 with the Midland Bank.
The manager, whom I knew well, never mentioned it during my year in office, but the very next day after relinquishing the mayoral chain I received a polite but firm letter from him asking what I was going to do about my overdraft.
I was in my mid-30s at the time and it was then I thought I ought to do something about building a career and it wasn’t long after that that I moved to London to work.
I remember my year as the town’s youngest ever mayor, a dubious record I still hold, with great fondness, not least because my wife became the first mayoress to give birth (to our eldest daughter Zoe) during our term.
I’m sure we’ll see the Arrows over Lyme again
SUMMER won’t seem the same in Lyme Regis without the fabulous Red Arrows screeching in over the bay, thrilling the thousands lining our seafront to witness what many say makes them “proud to be British”.
Obviously there is great disappointment in the town that for the first time for over 40 years the Red Arrows have been forced to turn down our application as the date requested – Thursday, August 16 – has clashed with one of their regular engineering days.
Unfortunately, there were no other spare dates in the Arrows’ hectic summer programme.
The news came shortly before the tragic circumstances in Wales this week when a new recruit to the Red Arrows’ engineering team lost his life when one of the jets crashed.
Lyme has a special relationship with the Red Arrows and a message of condolence has been sent to RAF Scampton, where the Arrows are based, on behalf of the people of our town.
Discussions are taking place with the RAF Events team to see if they can arrange any other displays to fill the void and it is hoped that Lyme Regis Community Week will continue with a full programme of events, and may be a few surprises, from August 13 to 19.
No group of people will be more disappointed than the members of Lyme Regis Red Arrows 100 Club which I formed to help raise money to pay for the Arrows’ visits to Lyme Regis in the past couple of years.
With further support from a generous benefactor from Lyme’s business community, the money was already in place for this summer’s display.
However, sadly it is not to be. But I have been assured that the decision not to come to Lyme this summer will have no impact on future applications and I am sure we will see the Arrows performing their fantastic aerial manoeuvres over Lyme Bay again in the future.
This town has been hugely fortunate to have had them so often over the past 40 years.
I can assure you we will do our best to bring them back again in the future and to do all we can to help the town council make the 2018 Community Week a great success.
The best way to spend a penny…
LYME Regis got a mention in The Times’ coverage of Chancellor Philip Hammond’s idea to ditch the 1p and 2p coins.
In his excellent Red Box daily blog, Matt Chorley wrote: “For me, there is no greater feeling in life than being in the arcade on Lyme Regis seafront turning your thumbs green while pumping old 2ps into a pusher machine nudging a knock-off Rubik’s cube or a watch which is also a calculator closer to the drop.”
That’s a view I’m sure will be shared by Amusement Arcade owner George Symonds, a staunch Tory who will not be happy with the Chancellor’s penny pinching.
When my daughters were young and we were taking a Sunday evening stroll along the front, George would always call us into the arcade and give Zoe and Francesca a handful of copper to play the machines. He knew what he was doing, of course, because they invariably lost the lot and then pleaded with me for more coins.
But George, being George, always made sure they won something.
As someone who has shaken a few tins on the seafront over the years, the loss of the 1p and 2p coins could have severe affect on charity collections.
Will we soon see the days when collectors on carnival night will have to carry mobile card machines for people to make their donations by the contactless system? Far from the days we uses to carry a blanket behind the floats and people threw their spare coins into it.