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Mayors News

Mayors News – Cllr Doug Smith (May 2024)

Representing Great Torrington as Deputy Mayor and Mayor over the past few years has been a most memorable time for me.  

During my time as Deputy Mayor, we experienced the devastating worldwide pandemic – Covid 19. A time that is etched in all our memories. I was proud to be a part of Great Torrington Town Council who even ahead of the Government’s announcement that the country would enter lockdown, had initiated a community support scheme to help vulnerable members of the community. This service was a lifeline to many in our town, at a time of great anxiety and uncertainty.   

During my first year as Mayor, it was a huge relief to everyone – especially the Cavaliers – that the burning of the Mayflower replica was able to take place during the August Bank Holiday weekend of 2021. After the period of lockdown and isolation the event was an opportunity for the community to come together, and the Cavaliers excelled themselves once again in providing an outstanding evening of entertainment.  

It was an honour to be Mayor for the return of the annual Mayfair celebrations in May 2022. The town had missed this event for two years and the community welcomed it back with great excitement and the sun shone on the day, which is always helpful.  

In contrast, later that year in September 2022, it was with immense sadness that we learnt of the passing of our Sovereign, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. Coupled with the passing of His late Royal Highness Prince Phillip the previous year, this represented the end of an era, and the town joined the rest of the country and the world in mourning the loss of our longest reigning monarch. It was an honour as Mayor to lead the moment of reflection and the Proclamation of King Charles III in the Town Square. 

The Coronation of His Majesty King Charles III was cause for much celebration. The Town Council held a cream tea at the Town & Community Hall for around 100 members of the community, and Torrington Silver Band provided entertainment in the sunshine for members of the public. The May Queen attended the cream tea with her entourage and delivered cream teas to some people who were unable to leave their houses to attend. It was a privilege to attend Great Torrington Bluecoat School to distribute Coronation Badges from Great Torrington Town Council to the children, and also to attend Bluecoat Nursery and Little Frogs Pre-School to donate commemorative books for everyone to enjoy. 

Margaret Noble has in recent years been brought to our attention as a significant local historic figure. Born in Ireland she lived in Great Torrington for several years before she moved first to London, then Calcutta, where she established a school for girls in 1898, a thing unheard of in India at the time. She was given the name Sister Nivedita, and I was honoured to take part in the unveiling of a statue in our cemetery to celebrate the 150th anniversary of her birth on October 22nd, 2022, and last year I was invited as a guest to the unveiling of another statue in her memory in Wimbledon. 

I must thank my Mayors Chaplains Reverend Robert Blackhall and Father Steve Turner for their support over the past few years, it has been a pleasure to work with you both. 

I would encourage everyone eligible to explore the possibility of volunteering as a town councillor. It’s a wonderful opportunity to put something back into the community; if you have ideas and think you could make a difference, please do take that positive step and volunteer. In this my final Crier piece, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all those Councillors, officers, and residents who have supported me at every turn. My life is richer thanks to my experience on Great Torrington Town Council. 

Leonardo helicopter visits Great Torrington

There was much excitement when a large black Leonardo helicopter landed in the field next to Hatchmoor Nursing Home last week. Pupils from GTS and Petroc attended, and thoroughly enjoyed being shown around this state-of-the-art aircraft.

Condition Monitoring Technology Group (CMTG) organised the event, as they supply technology used in these helicopters. It’s wonderful that Torrington is the base for this highly innovative and skilled company, who provide many training and employment opportunities.

Many thanks to Douglas Graham, the Operational Director and his colleagues who gave us a great insight into the company and its market leading position.

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 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.

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.

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.

Northam May Fair Day

The weather was very kind to us when we attended Northam Mayfair Day on Saturday 30th April 2022 along with a number of other local Mayor’s. We were entertained by numerous acts throughout the day including dinosaurs, the pipe band, steam rides on the miniature traction engine and of course the children performed the maypole dance.

Fingers crossed the sun will also shine for our Mayfair celebrations over the next few days, I look forward to seeing you there!

Cllr Doug Smith, Mayor of Great Torrington

May be an image of 13 people, people standing and outdoors