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Mayors News

Mayor’s Charity Burns Night

My Mayor’s Charity Burns supper which was held at Great Torrington Golf Club on Friday 20th January was a resounding success. I would like to thank Mike Harper, our Piper who entertained us with everything from traditional Scottish airs, to thinly disguised modern tunes played on pipes. There were also readings including some of Burns’ own work.

All the classic ingredients were there from haggis and neeps to the obligatory speeches, and plenty of Tartan for the Lassies and the Laddies.

My thanks to the many local Mayors, dignitaries and representatives of local organisations who came along, and of course to Trish and the wonderful staff at Great Torrington Golf Club who treated us to a Burns Supper well worthy of the occasion.

Overall, a total of just under £350 was raised for my Mayors Charities, Devon Air Ambulance and First Torrington Guides.

Mayors December Crier Article

The Police and Crime Commissioner Councillor Advocates meeting took place via zoom this month where I ‘virtually’ met our new Inspector Ewan Seear and we discussed local issues including road safety. The following day I attended the Collaborative Working Group meeting which we initiated during the summer to coordinate the town’s response to the small wave of anti-social behaviour issues we experienced at that time. We are fortunate in Great Torrington to have one of the lowest crime rates in the country, but we do need to make sure that any incidents that do occur are reported using the correct procedures – please refer to a useful document from Devon & Cornwall Police on the Great Torrington Town Council website for details of how to report and who to report to:

I have also recently attended a number of civic events across the area; Holsworthy Mayor’s charity fundraising Civic Ball, the Mayor’s Civic Service in Lynton and Lynmouth and a musical evening presented by South Molton Town Council which raised funds for South Molton Mayor’s charities. It is always lovely to get out and about in the area and network with local Mayors and Councillors.

I attended a memorial service in the Methodist Church for one of our former Mayors, Avril Beer, where there was an impressive turnout of people wishing to express their sadness at the passing of a former Mayor of our town. Avril played an influential role in many local institutions, not least the Mayfair and Carnival Committee and will be sorely missed by all.

Several years ago, we were approached to assist in celebrating the life of Margaret Noble, who lived in Great Torrington in the late 19th Century, and an impressive memorial was placed in Great Torrington Cemetery. Sister Nivedita, as she became known in India, played an important role in the empowerment of women providing education and nursing to people living in very difficult conditions. This year we held a small ceremony to celebrate her 155th birthday and this was live-streamed to India.

This Halloween you may have spotted some scary goings on for little people at Great Torrington Town Hall. We must thank everyone involved for organising such a successful event, and it was wonderful to see a report from Great Torrington on BBC Spotlight that evening.

Your Mayfair and Carnival Committee really needs your help. In order for the fabulous day that we all know and love to take place, we need people to get involved now. Support is needed with the planning and organisation, and also with stewarding and practical tasks on the day. If you think you can help and keep this ancient tradition alive, do contact the committee or attend the next meeting.

Christmas is fast approaching and I hope you enjoy the many events in town during the build-up to the big day.  On behalf of the Town Council, I would like to wish you all a very peaceful and healthy Christmas time and a happy New Year.

Cllr Doug Smith

Mayor of Great Torrington

Mayors November Crier Article

Early in September the death was announced of Her Majesty the queen. We had been aware for some time of Her Majesty’s reduction in mobility, but it nonetheless came as a shock when her passing was announced. She had been such an important part of our Country’s life for so long that few of us remember life without Her. I count myself fortunate to have met her on a couple of occasions and am aware of the extraordinary contribution she made to our country both here at home and overseas as our unique ambassador. The Royal Funeral was one of those deeply moving events which most of us will remember for the rest of our lives. Thank you, Ma’am.

We had planned a History Alive Day on Saturday the 10th September which fell two days after the Queens death.  We made an impromptu decision on Thursday evening to cancel the event out of respect for the Queen.  Since then, we have discussed the possibility of hosting the event next year.  Watch this space!

Later in September the Post Office announced the sudden closure due to the expiry of the then current lease. The Town Council has continued over the years to make strong representation of the need for a Post Office in Great Torrington and we did so again in this instance.  I am very pleased to say that the Community Development Trust (CDT) stepped into the breach immediately the news broke, and offered accommodation, which was firmed up as quickly as possible. At the time of writing this article, we are advised that the new Post Office will be opening very soon!

I am sorry to say that the Great Torrington Mayfair Committee Annual General Meeting, held in September was poorly attended with only 12 people present. I am sure we all want May Fair to continue in 2023 and I can only appeal for more volunteers to come forward to ensure we secure the future of this much loved and valued event in our town.

I attended a police commissioners advocates meeting in Plymouth with County Councillor Andrew Saywell and District Councillor David Hurley where we discussed the recent mini crime wave situation in Great Torrington and requested that Alison Hernandez comes to visit us and see for herself. Our concerns included the reduction of Beat Officers locally, as well as the recent spate of arson attacks, to which one suggestion was to investigate the installation of CCTV to control the anti-social behaviour perpetrated by a tiny minority of our residents.

Winter COVID boosters were available in the pannier market and a large queue of people formed to use this service, saving themselves round trips to Barnstaple.

The Torrington Silver Band had their 70th anniversary concert at the Howe Hall where we were treated to a magical mystery tour of the Band’s history from inception right up to the present day. As ever, a superb evening from our own superb Band!

At our Council meeting in October, we bid farewell to our Town Clark Karen Chapman, who has worked hard for the town over the past number of years.  We are also pleased to welcome the new Town Clerk, Jennie Smithson, a local lady with a similar passion for our lovely town.  We very much look forward to working with Jennie in the future.

Mayors visit to Cawsey House

Cawsey House and The Landmark Trust were honoured to have a special guest at our recent Open Day on the 10th September 2022, in conjunction with the Heritage Open Days National event.

The Mayor of Great Torrington attended the property, here are some photos of Cllr Doug Smith at Cawsey House with one of our former Housekeepers for the Property Paula Clerc-De-Saux.

Photos and wording provided by The Landmark Trust.

Mayors September Crier Article

The soaring temperatures contributed to our record-breaking heatwave (Just in case no one had noticed) We had BBQs galore during the early part of the summer, and thanks to everyone for heeding the fire warnings.

Over the summer I was privileged to visit Ellie Allin as she celebrated her 100th birthday.  Ellie was very gracious when we met, surrounded by family and friends and certainly held court on a very hot and memorable day!

Christabel Palmer also celebrated her 100th birthday but unfortunately, when the time came, I was unable to visit due to Covid restrictions.  However, I was very pleased to send her my good wishes along with a bouquet of flowers.

I trust both ladies enjoyed their special day and I am thankful for being invited to join them.

We sadly lost a former 4 times Mayor, John Kelly in early August. After a service at the crematorium John was given a very heartfelt send-off at the Social Club, where we were regaled by stories of John’s own sending’s off whilst a football referee (including the time when he almost “red carded” his own son!) We did our best to make a dent in the buns and cakes, but had to admit defeat.

The Town gives thanks to John, one of our greats.

Citizen Science Core Group Sass is being promoted shortly to assess and monitor the health of our rivers and watercourses. We are hoping to encourage young and old to take very simple samples from rivers and streams, and enter the results on a worldwide database

I was pleased to attend Tarka Valley Railway’s 150th anniversary Open Day which saw me riding from Torrington Station to Bideford behind John Puddy’s steam traction engine!  That certainly was an experience I will not easily forget.  The open day was hugely successful, and the weather played its part in attracting a great crowd to enjoy the demonstrations and talks, as well as being entertained by our Silver Band who valiantly braved the heat.

The Bideford Regatta on 3rd September was a great event.  Strong winds made the course tricky for some novices, but encouragement from the riverbanks was order of the day.

This year’s Mayor’s Parade and Civic Service on 4th September drew a good crowd as we marched in procession from the Council Offices to the Methodist Church in Mill Street. Visiting Mayors voiced their usual approval at Great Torrington’s ability to throw a memorable show. My thanks go to all who participated, including our Town Council staff who organised the event, our Silver Band for their input, the Cadets who paraded perfectly, and special thanks to Rev. Rob Blackhall for conducting the service and Lance Corporal Roy, my Mayor’s Cadet, without whose assistance on the day my job would have been so much more difficult. The catering in the Methodist Church Hall was fantastic: our thanks as ever to the ladies for the glorious spread.

Six months on in the Ukrainian War, please continue to remember and support those displaced citizens who need us so desperately.

Now we have come through the summer heatwaves, droughts, fires etc, our minds are turning to Autumn and even, dare I say…Christmas? Let’s hope the financial issues we are all about to face lessen with time.

Enjoy the next season in our glorious town.

Tarka Valley Railway 150th Anniversary open weekend

I was invited to attend the Tarka Valley Railway 150th Anniversary open weekend which was opened on Saturday 6th August 2022 by Cllr Andrew Saywell from Devon County Council. Following the official opening myself, Cllr Saywell (DCC) and Cllr Michael Ireland (Okehampton Town Council & Chair of Okerail) accompanied John Puddy (Chair of Freshspring Trust) on his miniature traction engine along the Tarka Trail to Bideford Station. There we were met by Cllr Jude Gubb (the Mayor of Bideford) who joined us on the return journey to Torrington Station.

The weather was beautiful for our journey and we met many people along the way who were no doubt surprised to see the unusual traffic coming towards them.

Mayors August Crier Article

Following an incredibly busy May and early June, life has returned to some semblance of normality!

In June I was very happy to accompany Councillor Jude Gunn, The Mayor of Bideford to the Ceremony of flag raising on Armed Forces Day in Victoria Park. Councillor Doug Bushby Chair of TDC and several Torridge District Councillors were also in attendance.

The second meeting of Torrington Together since the lifting of restrictions at the end of June was a great success. We heard from speakers representing Torrington in Bloom, Tarka Valley Railway, RHS Rosemoor, Torrington Silver Band, Cavaliers and many more. The evening was well attended, and as always, it was great to hear updates from various organisations across the town. We are very fortunate to have so many volunteers working hard in the community!

The Town Council along with the town was very sad to hear of the death of Dr Harry Cramp MBE. Harry was a long-serving councillor, thrice Mayor and a Freeman of the town. Many people remember him fondly as their GP, and stories of Harry abound. I was privileged to spend a morning with him earlier this year on the day before his 90th birthday, when we had a couple of hours of laughter and exchanged tales of travel

The day of Harry’s funeral saw a packed St Michael’s and all Angels church where the congregation gathered to pay their final respects and celebrate Harry’s amazing life whilst mourning his passing. A much loved and respected local legend! On the day, someone commented that the church was about the safest place to have a medical emergency, as there were so many doctors under the one roof, either Harry’s offspring, or former colleagues. Family and friends gathered in the Town Hall after the service for the ‘Wake’.

Brian Wood’s unexpected death came just a couple of days after Harry’s funeral. A loss of yet another local character! Brian was a former Mace Bearer for the Town Council as well as having worked in the town, keeping it tidy. Brian will be sorely missed within the community and our condolences go to Brian’s family and friends.

One of my Charities this year is The Devon Air Ambulance who held an Open Day at Bideford Rugby Club during one of our mini heatwaves. Luckily our Local Ice Cream van was in attendance and performed magical restorative powers to many in need. The Helicopter is a regular visitor to our skies, and only a day or so before this event, one had responded to a call by landing in Torrington Football Club Ground. Many people don’t realise that the Air Ambulance is financed solely by public donations. I would therefore encourage any donations to be made if you are able.

At the time of writing this article the community was experiencing a number of serious incidents in our normally tranquil town. A couple of thefts, anti-social behaviour and serious incidents of arson had been reported, all of which were extremely upsetting and dangerous.

The Council has limited Powers, but in response to this spate of incidents, has arranged a meeting between a number of agencies who do have influence, and include the Police, Torridge District Council, GTS and the Fire Service in an attempt to facilitate a coordinated community response. The Town Council is incredibly shocked and saddened by these events and hope that we can work together as a community to ensure that all matters are dealt with appropriately and for restoration of a sense of calm within our midst.

On a brighter note, as I write, we are in the middle of a heatwave, so please do be conscious of the dangers to vulnerable people and animals. Pavements are blisteringly hot, and paws are very susceptible to burning… Enjoy the weather, but be vigilant.

Ellie Allin – 100th Birthday celebration

I was very honoured to be asked to visit Ellie Allin at Castle House Nursing Home on Tuesday 19th July 2022 to present her with a card and flowers for her 100th birthday. I was lucky to be able to spend time speaking with Ellie about her life and to meet some of her family who were also in attendance – what a tremendous milestone – the party was in full swing when I arrived! Ellie was delighted to have received her card from the Queen which has pride of place amongst her many other cards and gifts.

Holsworthy’s Pretty Maid Ceremony

The Deputy Mayor, Cllr Keeley Allin, attended Holsworthy’s Pretty Maid Ceremony on Wednesday 6th July, she said “I’ve attended the event many times before but it was once again lovely to visit Holsworthy and see their wonderful tradition brought back after Covid. We were able to take time to explore the town and look around the shops and it was also lovely to catch up with fellow chain gang members and find out how their own years of service were going so far. I want to thank the St Peters Fair Committee to such a great day and for Holsworthy Town council for their invite and hospitality”.