Christmas 2006

The President's Message

Christmas 2006

Almost halfway through my tenure of office, this Season of Greetings and Goodwill seems an appropriate time for a message from the President, so here goes....!

First of all, I hope I have already set a precedent – a President precedent! I was so moved by the occasion on the day last July when I was enrolled as the President of the Old Ilminsterians Association, that I subsequently wrote down all the feelings I experienced as the events of that day unfolded, and published them on our website. Entitled “2006 - the New President’s Day”, I hope that many of you were able to read and enjoy it. So I suspect that the same thing will be required of all successive Presidents. After all, it does seem to me that the President-elect is in the perfect place to chronicle all that happens on our marvellous Founders Day Reunions. Perhaps the President’s Christmas message might also become a tradition, on the basis that we have a website, so let’s use it. I realise, of course, that I have the honour to be President during this very special year of the window, so there is lots more for me to talk about!

Starting with the extremely good news that we are over the big hurdle because we have now received a letter from the D.A.C. granting us a ‘certificate of approval’ for the stained glass window, with the proviso that some small changes must be made to the colour of the background glass at the bottom of the window, where the armorials are placed. No problem! The proposal has been on public display, for the last 28 days, in the Minster itself, and I believe that construction will commence in the new year, keeping us well on schedule for the 14th July 2007. So your committee is now beginning to firm-up on the VIPs we are planning to invite to join us on that special day.

We are hoping that a Bishop will conduct the Consecration Service for the new window that will follow the Founders Day service, but are not quite sure which Bishop it will be yet. However, I can tell you all that my personal Guest of Honour will definitely be a colleague and friend of mine from my days of working with the BBC Antiques Roadshow - Henry Sandon. Perhaps the most well known and most well loved of all the experts, Henry started his adult life as a member of Worcester Cathedral Choir, and as the music teacher at Worcester Grammar School, so he is steeped in the traditions of both elements of English culture and heritage that we will be celebrating. Henry tells me that he actually sang in the Minster many years ago when on tour with the Choir, so he is looking forward to a return visit, and wonders whether any of the many people he met then will remember the occasion! He has also kindly agreed to say a few words to the assembled audience at the Shrubbery Hotel luncheon afterwards, so the next Founders Day reunion is undoubtedly one that should not be missed!

Meanwhile, I attended the Remembrance Day Service at Ilminster in November, to lay a wreath at the War Memorial on behalf of the Association. This was followed by tea and biscuits at the old School Gymnasium in the company of Stuart Shepherd, and what a kaleidoscope of memories and long-forgotten emotions that venue unleashed! Magic! Stuart introduced me to the Mayor of Ilminster and to the local MP, David Laws, and we managed to extract from them the promise that they too would both make every effort to attend the service and the luncheon.

On a purely personal note at this point, whilst I was greatly honoured to be laying a wreath on our behalf - at the culmination of the Remembrance Day Ceremony - I did feel that my presence in the parade which preceded it was not really necessary. The parade itself, of course, was magnificent, led by the town band and containing elements from all branches of the armed forces, the volunteer forces, the cadet forces, scouts and guides, and all the emergency services, and naturally including many members of the British Legion marching proudly behind their banners. I was assigned to march with that particular contingent, of course, but really and truly did not think that I belonged there, and felt rather like a fish out of water. I actually think I could have carried out my duties with the same dignity and feelings of pride if I had followed the example of the representatives of the Chamber of Commerce, the Masons, and Rotary International, to name but a few, and reported directly to the Minster just before the church service began. However, as I have intimated, this is a very personal view - future Presidents may relish their chance to march proudly through the streets of Ilminster.

Now to clear up a few loose ends I omitted to mention in my original report for the website. The sale of magazines and other memorabilia displayed on the Heritage of the Ile table raised £144.80, and the auction of items from George Maher’s estate raised another £128.00 for our funds, plus an additional £30.00 for the item from the RNLI. Because of this, your committee will make sure that George’s name gets put into the records as a donor to the stained-glass window fund. Also, having just stepped down from his highly successful year as President, David Brister was deservedly elected on to the committee. Then we had about 70 members at the dinner, who were joined after coffee by about a dozen ladies to hear Roy Butler’s talk.

I would like to say that those omissions were because I wasn’t aware of the facts at the time, but they were actually due to the effects of what my doctor once diagnosed as acute attacks of “anno dominitis!” For instance, I visited my brother-in-law in hospital recently, after he had suffered a second severe stroke, which required brain surgery to relieve the tremendous pressure caused by the cerebral haemorrhage. The small ward was full of other stroke victims who had received similar treatment, and the staff nurse explained to me that after major neurological surgery the patient’s mind needs to be kept active and focused. So she would go round at regular intervals asking them questions like “What’s my name, Peter?” and “Do you know where you are, Alan?” and “What year is it, Victor?” I turned to my wife and said “There are times when I have difficulty with the answers to those sort of questions myself, in spite of my ‘sound in wind and limb’ abilities!!” Still, I’m not the only one. I stood on the first tee one day last summer alongside my best mate, with whom I have played fair-weather golf regularly for nigh on thirty years. He called correctly on the traditional spin of the putter, so I said “Right, it’s your honour then, um.... it’s silly, I know, but I can’t seem to remember your name - what is it?” He looked me straight in the eye, paused for a moment then replied “How soon do you need to know?”

A very Merry Christmas, and a happy and prosperous New Year from the current President to all Old Ilminsterians wherever you are - and whatever your name is - and whatever year it is!

Cliff White


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