High Sheriff, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome again to this, our first installation dinner since we welcomed Helen Lovatt to her wardenship at the Pump Room in Cheltenham in 2019.
The absence of one in 2020 was a shame in many ways, but not least because it meant we did not have the opportunity to thank Helen for her term as Warden of the Company. So Helen, a very warm if belated public thank you for all your hard work and your excellent stewardship, and indeed for your subsequent year as High Sheriff.
For me the virtual receipt of this badge of office – and we did attempt to zoom it across at one meeting of Court – meant that I was able to dodge committing to doing anything in my tenure, no “Queen’s Speech” equivalent for me to be held to account for in later months.
What of course I would have said – with the 20-20 vision that was appropriate for that year but denied to us all – was that the pandemic would last some two years, that most of us, but seemingly not all, wouldn’t be able to have parties, and that we would have to think of other ways to continue our work for Gloucestershire and to maintain the fellowship that provides one of the mainsprings of the Company.
And I think the Company, through the hard work of the Court and Interest Groups, has managed that very well, with on-line meetings and lectures, enhanced and more frequent newsletters, and with the introduction of the innovative ‘ in conversation‘ pieces. The uptake of all of these has been very good, though I suspect that is because some of us had grandchildren to help crack the technology.
And the excellent work of the Charitable Trust continued, initially to assist with Covid, but then back to its important work supporting myriad charities in the County. Now under the leadership of Mark Heywood after Sir Henry’s long tenure, this is work of which the Honourable Company can be very proud. 2
The mentoring scheme for small charities, in partnership with the Cranfield Trust and the GCF, the Gloucestershire Community Foundation, which Helen and then Andrew have driven so effectively, is another jewel in our crown. As is the David Vaisey Prize for the county’s libraries which continues its excellent work, and now has renewed security of funding. Sir Henry’s scheme for the Company to work with Parishes across the County, over 120 of them, in planting oak trees for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee has also been a signature success.
And when Covid allows, we will get to Korea to commemorate the Battle of Imjin River and to justify all the work that Patrick Brooke has put into the trip.
Eventually we started our forays back into in-person events; the first of these, the dinner at Tewkesbury Abbey was an excellent evening, graced as it was by our Patron HRH The Princess Royal and Admiral Sir Tim Laurence. It was an evening that HRH must have enjoyed, for to our great gratitude and pride, HRH has agreed to continue as our Patron for a further period.
In that evening we celebrated with the Abbey their 900th anniversary, and what I think is so gratifying about many of our endeavours is that they are increasingly achieved in partnership with others. This must be a key component of the work we do for the County. I think we can continue to broker discussion on topics of importance and opportunity for the County – for example on cyber which we heard about in this year’s Gloucestershire lecture. We linked with CPRE Gloucestershire for Adam Henson’s Gloucestershire Lecture in 2021 about our rural county, touching on another area worthy of further debate, as are the issues of sustainability and skills.
But I am beginning to stray into Andrew’s territory as the incoming Warden, and the Company is more than safe with his hands on the wheel. It is excellent that he, now with Julie as Assistant Warden and Michael as the new Junior Warden are willing to take the Company forward. We should not forget that these roles are voluntary. We are especially fortunate to have them, as we are with our members of the Court and the Interest Groups, and indeed all the members of the Company, including our very welcome new members, some of whom are here tonight. 3
And of course we are most ably supported in all our work by Phil Robson as the Clerk. I am very grateful indeed for his, and everyone’s support during my time as Warden; it has been very much appreciated, and very necessary.
And so to the rite of wardenial passage – and it seems very apt to be doing this here at Chavenage or rather, given Andrew’s Cornish connections, the poldarkian Trenwith House. George Warleggan, sorry, Andrew Tabor will be an excellent warden, knowing the county as he does both from his previous roles as High Sheriff and President of the Gloucestershire Society and his present involvements such as the Gloucester Cathedral Appeal. The Company is indeed very fortunate to have him.
So Andrew Tabor, it is my privilege on behalf of us all, and with our warmest congratulations, to install you formally as Warden of the Honourable Company of Gloucestershire. We wish you every success and we promise you our very best support.