Sunday, November 12, 2006


We remember them

Today was Remembrance Sunday, and I took part in the parade in Prestwich. The service was at St Hilda’s Church, followed by a parade down to the cenotaph by St Mary’s Park. I laid a wreath on behalf of St Mary’s Liberal Democrats. The turnout in the Church was very good. There were very many children there from various Scout-related groups, and armed forces cadets, and St John Ambulance. There were also a good many Royal British Legion veterans, although sadly not very many people in between the very old and the very young.

Still, as far as Council representation went, there wasn’t a bad turnout. Our own Cllr Vic D’Albert was representing the Mayor, as Prestwich’s longest serving Councillor. Cllrs Ann Garner and Donal O’Hanlon represented Sedgley and St Mary’s Wards for us, and Steve Wright and I were there as the local ward campaigners. Cllr Michelle Wiseman, the Conservative Party PPC for Bury South was also present, as was Bury South MP Ivan Lewis. I don’t envy him on a day like today. He hurried off after the service to join the parade elsewhere in the constituency, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he attended another parade on top of that one!

I was disappointed to see no Labour Councillors though. It's not a party-political point, but it's a shame that in a town with a large Labour-voting contingency, nobody from the party was there to lay a wreath. It also makes us look a bit greedy for laying about half a dozen...

As ever with me, there were social disasters a-plenty. First there was the dilemma of where to sit in Church. I arrived with Vic, whose lofty position as Prestwich’s Councillor-in-Chief meant that he had a seat on the front row next to Ivan Lewis. The other Lib Dem Councillors joined him, leaving me alone, so I decided to make a go of it and perch myself on the very edge of the front row. This presented a couple of difficulties. Not only was I an interloper on a row of chairs that required a sizeable democratic mandate to sit on, but I had picked the most extreme chair, directly underneath a large drape that flopped onto my head when I sat down, and was pressed right up against my nose when I stood up. Getting up for the hymns was like undoing a pair of curtains from below.

By craning my neck around the offending drape, and holding it out of my face, I could hear Father Croft deliver a very well-received and thoughtful sermon comparing our own life experiences these days with those of the soldiers we remember from The Great War. I hadn’t heard him speak before, but his reputation went before him and on the basis of today’s performance, it's well deserved. He pointed out our row of dignitaries on a couple of occasions, although I worried each time that he might single me out as an undeserving member of it!

"We are fortunate here today to be joined by the elected men and women who represent Prestwi... Who the heck are you boy?!"

But it didn't happen.

Thankfully the service only lasted 40 minutes, so I was only curtained in the drape for that length of time, and exited before becoming overly entwined in it. The parade itself was watched by a large number of people, and there was a sizeable crowd at the Cenotaph itself. The two minutes silence was impeccably observed, and the poems and bugle calls were received in the spirit befitting the day.

My experience of wreath-laying was fraught with difficulties. I hadn’t done it before, and hadn’t bargained on my debut being watched by hundreds of onlookers. It was fine though, even the backwards walking bit, and I was very pleased to take part in such an important occasion on behalf of St Mary’s Liberal Democrats.

Unfortunately, I was wearing my photo-chromatic glasses, which had gone dark in the daylight, and so it looked as if I was wearing shades at the Cenotaph. Not really appropriate. Had I realised at the time, I'd have taken them off. Apparently, according to my Mother, who was there, several onlookers asked if I was wearing them for a serious medical condition… So I have resolved not to be similarly caught-out in the future, and have bought a new pair of glasses on-line tonight, without those pesky lenses!

It’s never easy, is it…?

But overall, it was a privilege to join the parade and the people of Prestwich in a day that was so well organised by all those involved, including the Police and of course the Royal British Legion. Obviously days like these are not ones to look forward to, but their importance is impossible to overstate. Those who bring together the town to observe them deserve our credit, as do all those who take part.


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