The New Mayor of Rye & Speaker of the Cinque Ports, Councillor Bernardine Fiddimore’s Inauguration Speech
The first time I stood in this Chamber I was just seventeen and I had recently been crowned Miss Rye.
The Carnival Queen – really. I remember being shown around by Percy Sherwood who was the Town Crier at that time, and I remember being almost overwhelmed with awe at the magnificence of the building, the sense of history and of greatness. I remember feeling very proud and very privileged.
I had of course no idea then, that one day I would stand in this same Chamber and take the Oath of as the Mayor of Rye. Well I can tell you I feel the same sense of privilege today as I did back then and I am almost equally as overwhelmed with awe.
I wasn’t born in Rye, but first visited at the age of just 6 months when my parents chose a converted railway carriage at Winchelsea Beach for a holiday. We came back several times every single year throughout the sixties and I remember marvellous holidays exploring Rye and its surroundings. We always climbed the Church Tower just as the bells were due to ring the hour so that we could be in just the right place to be deafened by them. We found it incredibly exciting and had never heard of Health & Safety, but then neither had anyone else.
We were fascinated by the cobbled streets, entranced by the tales of smuggling and French invaders and I became a huge fan of Monica Edwards who wrote children’s books about Rye & Rye Harbour and the Romney Marsh. It was Monica’s influence that led to me climbing up to the roof of the Harbour’s Martello Tower at the age of 14, which on reflection was probably rather dangerous.
Our home in Surrey became almost like a shrine to our holidays here, as my mother decorated with all sorts of nautical memorabilia from shops like Mary & I and Gassons Chandlers as well as with natural seashore finds, glass fishing floats and driftwood. This was years before it became a fashionable design trend and it pretty well rocked her friends in the sixties. She was always years ahead of her time in her vision and it is so very sad that she cannot be here today. She would have been so proud of this moment.
It was due to my parents vision that we moved permanently to the area when I was 13 to open Iden Boarding Kennels and I seem to have been part of the Rye scene ever since.
Our little Town is unique and in so many diverse ways. It’s why so many people want to come here to visit and to live.. We have one of the oldest cobbled streets in England and one of the most famous Inns. We have carefully preserved ancient buildings and we have a modern college, a sports centre and a swimming pool. We have our own community bus service and we have our own independent hospital, one of only three such facilities in the country. Our hospital has just won a top award for its excellent service to the community and we should be very proud of that. Rye plays host to a range of wonderful and unique festivals throughout the year, all put together tirelessly by a huge number of volunteers. Rye has museums, galleries and community centres all hosting events that keep the town vibrant and alive. Our Heritage Centre down on the Strand is a triumph of tourist attraction, home to the marvellous Rye Town Model and talked about all over the world. Rye still resounds with the spirit with which Rye men sailed to France many years ago to reclaim our stolen church bells. All in all not bad for a town of only four and a half thousand people!
This year Rye Town Council is working towards grasping more control over what happens here and how it happens. The Rye Neighbourhood Plan is at an advanced stage of development and I urge every single person concerned with Rye to get behind it. Check out the website, fill in a survey and come to one of the consultation events. This Plan gives us a once in a lifetime chance to manage the future of our Town for those who will inherit it from us.
As I said before, I seem to have been a part of the Rye Scene for a long time, but never more so than now. I know that I have several pretty hard acts to follow as Mayor, but I can tell you this. With the help and support of my colleagues at council and the many others that help with governance, I intend to give The Ancient Town of Rye the very best of my efforts.
“Rye’s Own” June 2014
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