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Mayors News

Great Torrington Mayor attends statue unveiling commemorating the life and works of Sister Nivedita in London

On the 1st of July, Torridge Councillor and Great Torrington Mayor Doug Smith travelled to Wimbledon, London, to unveil a statue to honour Margaret Noble better known as Sister Nivedita. Sister Nivedita was a celebrated educator and a champion of the poor in India, with strong family ties to Great Torrington, where a half-bust statue was unveiled in 2019.

Standing at an impressive height of 6.2 ft, the bronze statue was fabricated and cast in India by artist Nirjan De, Sarada Sarkar of the Sister Nivedita Celebrations Committee. The figure stands before Richard’s Lodge High School for Girls, paying tribute to Sister Nivedita’s legacy as a strong and independent woman and champion of educational opportunities for women. The statue faces southeast, towards Bengal, symbolising the connection between the two regions.

Margaret Elizabeth Noble was born in 1867 in Great Torrington but spent most of her life in India where she gained a reputation as an educationalist and a campaigner for India’s freedom movement. She met Swami Vivekananda in 1895 in London and subsequently travelled to Calcutta. There, she established a girls’ school in 1898 with the intention of providing education to girls who had been deprived of even the most basic education. She was given the name Nivedita, meaning “dedicated to god.” During the plague epidemic in Calcutta in 1899, she nursed people experiencing poverty. Sister Nivedita was closely associated with the Ramakrishna Mission and later also made an active contribution in the field of Indian Nationalism.

The impressive memorial in Great Torrington and now also in London will hopefully mean that future generations will be reminded of her remarkable achievements in India and her connection to Torridge and the town of her birth.  

Councillor Doug Smith, Torridge District Council and Great Torrington Mayor, said:

“The people of Great Torrington are so pleased to be connected to this amazing woman. Her legacy has forged new links and friendships that stretch across many countries, and we look forward to welcoming the many visitors that will come to view her grave and memorial as a place of pilgrimage. It was an honour to be invited to the event in London and to be welcomed to take part in the unveiling. Another fitting tribute to a remarkable woman”. 

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.

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.