Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Tales of Community

This morning Stockton Town Hall was open for anyone to pay a small sum and have a cup of coffee or tea with the Mayor and Mayoress and a tour of the building. This wasn't because the Mayor needed something extra to help with the household bills but to raise funds for his charities for this year - Daisy Chain and Justice First. I took the opportunity to go and have my cuppa but with a secondary motive too. A relative of my husband was Mayor of Thornaby in the early 1950s and as my husband is tracing his family history I had made arrangements to photograph the chain which he would have worn.
The Thornaby chain became part of Stockton's regalia following local government reorganisation and has been worn by the Deputy Mayor of Stockton for some years. There have been people in Thornaby who felt that the chains should have been returned when Thornaby residents voted to have a Town Council several years ago but there have always been reasons why it couldn't happen. This year the Mayor of Stockton-on-Tees (Eaglescliffe councillor John Fletcher) has worked with the Town Mayor of Thornaby (Councillor Mick Eddy) to find a solution and this afternoon the chains were to be handed over formally into the safe-keeping of Thornaby Town Council. Before that happened, with the help of the Stockton Mayor's Attendant, I obtained the photographs for the family history record. Both the Mayor's and the Mayoress' chains have the names inscribed on the backs of the links and now they're recorded for posterity. The chains have gone back now to the community which treasured them for so many years, still part of the Borough's heritage but very much part of the heritage of Thornaby (or South Stockton as it was once known).
I left the Town Hall with my precious photographs and called at a nearby market stall for some veg when I bumped into a former student and friend whom I haven't seen for a few months. Her husband was very keen to tell me that he was voted a Community Champion for his work in Stockton in trying to help the Asian communities in central Stockton. It was lovely to catch up with them and to be able to add my congratulations.
All in all, a day of being reminded of the importance of community in our lives. We ignore it at our peril and it's right that we celebrate the diversity of our communities and the fact that Stockton Borough is much greater than the sum of its parts.

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