Incorporated by Royal Charter
Patron: Her Majesty The Queen
As I stood at the war memorial on the hill in my little Surrey village, and listened to the long list of names of those members of the armed forces who had died in two World Wars and in conflicts since, I thought for a moment of all the members of branches of the Royal Society of St George standing in front of their war memorials up and down the country, doing just as I was, remembering and honouring our dead. And dreadfully and poignantly sad as Remembrance Sunday is, when every little village has such a long list of those who died, often two or three with the same name (all those poor mothers), it made me very proud to think of us all, doing our bit to ensure that those who have given so much for our country are never forgotten.
This has been a year of commemorations and of celebrations. I don’t need to list them for you to know them as well as I do, but I think that in many ways the one that meant the most to us was the day when we marked our Patron the Queen becoming the longest reigning monarch in this country. As you will read elsewhere in this Journal, it had been agreed at the AGM that we should send her roses, one for each of her 63 years as our Monarch, but also that we should try to send her a message of congratulations from every branch. And this we did – the 63 wonderful red roses went to her with a message from our President, and we put together a beautiful leather bound book of letters of congratulations from branches around the country and around the world. Thank you to everyone who got involved, it was a wonderful tribute.
You might well think that I should get out more when I say that I got an enormous thrill out of sitting next to the ‘fastest man on earth’ at our Battle of Britain lunch. And that could be true – but, disappointed as we were not to have Air Vice Marshall Turner as our Guest Speaker, he sent us an amazing substitute in Wing Commander Andy Green – the aforesaid ‘fastest man’. When he got up to speak, not only was he eloquent and absorbing, he spoke without a single note! More on this elsewhere in the Journal.
I have been privileged to go to some lovely places these last few months and attend some memorable events, not least the lovely service at our Parish Church of St George in Hanover Square in October. I have joined Westminster branch for their summer barbecue (it rained again but who cares with company like that!), and their lunch to celebrate the Queen becoming our longest reigning Monarch, I ate three extremely good Trafalgar dinners, with the Yachting Association, Seahaven and St Neots, and joined Haslemere for their Battle of Britain dinner. I had an amazing day with the Pearly Kings and Queens at their Costermongers Harvest Festival.
I did enjoy visiting St Neots branch, with whom I had a lovely evening and who were kind enough to laugh at my jokes. I think, however, that I caused them even more amusement when I said that it is my intention to visit every branch in the country during my time as Chairman. That, of course, depends on whether the branches will have me! But it is nevertheless my ambition, as I would very much like to meet as many as possible of the people who make up our Society. It is the branches that make the Society work and I am completely and absolutely committed to giving you all the support that I can. So – I look forward to meeting you!
That is only part of the job of being Chairman, though, and I am indebted to my Council for the work that they put in to helping take the Society forward. A great deal of time and thought is given to how we make the Society more inclusive and more relevant to today’s society and how we involve you, the members, in everything that we do. The newsletter has become an important tool, that we can use to send out information, requests and reminders between each edition of the Journal, and I hope that people are finding that useful . I know that a lot of branch chairmen and secretaries are sending out the newsletter to their members when they receive it, but if you would like to receive it directly, please let me know.
One of my hopes – and I have many! – is that branches will use the newsletter to liaise more with other branches. It would be lovely to arrive at a time when branches opened their events to members outside their branch, to give people a wider social network. We read from time to time of events having to be cancelled because of lack of numbers – by sharing events with other branches, this would not need to happen. And, since we are all like-minded people, I am sure that there will be a lot of common ground.
The new website will play its part in this, as it will be possible for branches to advertise their upcoming events and to update their own pages. It is looking really good, and I am indebted to Chris Houghton, Council member and chairman of Bolton branch, for all the time and trouble he has put into this. And its nearly there – once it is launched, we will send out a newsletter advising you, and asking you to use it, give us feedback on it, and make it part of your communication toolkit.
There is one particularly important anniversary next year, and that is the occasion of the Queen’s 90th Birthday. I am sure that every branch in the country will already have plans to celebrate that, but I would also ask you to take a look at the website for the Patron’s lunch, at www.thepatronslunch.com. This is partly about a street party for 10,000 people on the Mall, on Sunday 2th June 2016, to celebrate her Majesty the Queen’s patronage of over 600 charities and organisations, of which we are of course one. As a Patron’s organisation, we can bid for a table for 10, at a cost of £150 per ticket. On the face of it, that sounds like a great deal of money – but, this will be a once in a lifetime occasion, who wouldn’t want to be part of it? My plan is to offer the tickets firstly to the chairmen of branches, to be drawn by ballot, which seems like the fairest way.
The lunch on the Mall is only part of what is going on around this time. We are able to use the Patron’s lunch website to advertise our Society, and to use their logo and links on ours. And, leading on from that, it would be lovely if, as a Society, we could put together our own book of memories of the day, and what happens around the country. Food for thought.
I am delighted to be able to tell you that the Society has now formally affiliated with its first school – Camelsdale Primary School in Haslemere. I met the Head Teacher and the pupils last week and had a lovely couple of hours in their company – such bright, engaged, enquiring and extremely polite children, they were a joy to be with, even if their knowledge of English history was better than mine. As there is more about this later in the Journal, I will let that article speak for itself.
And, finally but by no means the least of what I have talked about, I am very sad that Cyril Horsford has stepped down as Honorary Registrar for the Society. He has done the job with a great dedication to duty and an irrepressible sense of humour since 1989 and, although I have only known him for around 8 years of that time, I know how much he has done to help and guide the Society during those years. I am delighted that we have been able to offer him a Fellowship of the Society in recognition of his work. I am also delighted that Cecile Gillard, Deputy Registrar, has agreed to take on the role of Honorary Registrar, and I know that she will be absolutely the right person for the job.
I am told so often that no-one reads the Journal. I hope that isn’t the case and that I haven’t just wasted a rare sunny morning – but, in the spirit of believing 15 impossible things before lunch every day, I will hope that you do and that I can send you every good wish for Christmas and the New Year and every hope that I have the chance to meet you or at least talk to you in 2016.
I finished writing this as the dreadful events in Paris unfolded on Friday 13th November. I know I speak for everyone in the Society when I say that our hearts go out to everyone involved, and their families and friends, as they come to terms with the devastation wreaked by these pointless and cowardly acts of terrorism.
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