Farewell from the High Sheriff of Gwent 2019-20
No High Sheriff can ever have imagined that their shrievalty year would finish in the way ours has in 2020. I feel incredibly sorry that, because of the coronavirus pandemic, the newly appointed High Sheriffs will not have the joy of their public declaration ceremonies. However, of course, we all fully understand and support the measures that are being taken to tackle this exceptional and dangerous global emergency. As I am not able to close my year in the traditional way, I thought I would write this short piece to try to convey my feelings as a unique and special year draws to an end.
As everyone told me it would, being High Sheriff has given me so many opportunities to be involved with people and communities right across Gwent, and in ways I never have before. This has brought with it a whole host of emotions for me personally. Excitement, anticipation, pride, joy, surprise, happiness, love, relief, satisfaction, compassion, admiration, amusement, awe. At times on this shrieval roller coaster I have also felt troubled, nervous, awkward, stressed, disturbed, anxious, sad and guilty. But the emotion I want to dwell on as my year as High Sheriff ends is gratitude.
I feel an enormous sense of gratitude to a great many people, including every individual who has helped and supported me, particularly those in the shrievalty family. I have felt encouraged, coached and nurtured by other High Sheriffs – here in Gwent and more widely in Wales. Their friendship helped to carry me through the more demanding aspects of the year. I am also hugely grateful to have been welcomed and supported by civic leaders and their teams across Gwent. I feel a strong sense of gratitude towards Gwent Police, not just for the support they have given to me, and that they continue to give to the Gwent High Sheriffs’ Fund, but for all the vital work they do to keep our communities safe.
It has been a privilege to visit the projects supported by the Gwent High Sheriffs Community Fund and to get to know their work. In a myriad of different ways they are tackling some of the most difficult issues in our society today and they are making a real difference.
During the course of the year I attended many remembrance and memorial services at which we show our deep gratitude for the courage and sacrifice of those who served their country. By remembering all who have served, we recognise the hardships and fears they endured so that we can live in peace. For that gratitude to be meaningful, we must accept our responsibility to uphold the peace they fought hard to achieve. Here is one quote from a service that I attended to mark Holocaust Memorial Day: “As we recall what hatred has done before us, and is still doing this very day, we resolve to play our part in creating a different world; where equality and tolerance, peace and freedom, justice and human goodness are cherished as the great wealth we all have to share.”
I have had the honour to meet so many truly good, kind people who give their time, energy and personal resources to help others. As High Sheriff I have had glimpses of some of the grim realities of our world, which can be a cruel and tough place. That makes it even more heart-warming and humbling to see the selfless generosity of volunteers. My most heartfelt gratitude goes to all of them.
More than anything else, my time as High Sheriff has filled me with gratitude – for this unique opportunity, for the life I am lucky enough to lead, and for the wonderful people around me. I am confident that we will have the courage, good sense and community-spirit to overcome the immense challenges we are facing at the moment and I wish the new High Sheriff of Gwent all the very best for his year in office.
Dame Claire Clancy DCB DL, High Sheriff of Gwent 2019-2020
Declaration Ceremony, Sessions House, Usk
High Sheriff of Gwent, 2019-2020, Dame Claire Clancy DCB DL
The new High Sheriff of Gwent, Dame Claire Clancy, began her year in office with a formal
Declaration Ceremony at the Sessions House in Usk, continuing a tradition which stretches
back for more than 1,000 years. Claire takes over from Sharon Linnard who served as High
Sheriff of Gwent for the last year. The ceremony was a short, legal occasion during which
Claire made a statutory Declaration of Office before a Justice of the Peace. In front of over
90 invited guests, she also made her own promise for her year as High Sheriff, pledging to
listen and learn from the work of all those she encounters and to nurture and encourage
them in order to support the work of those who help make Gwent a caring, safe and
inclusive place to live.
The Office of High Sheriff is an independent non-political royal appointment for a single
year. It is the oldest secular office in the country, dating back to the times of Ethelred the
Unready and King Canute. The duties associated with the role have evolved over time and
involve playing an active role promoting the interests of criminal justice agencies and
voluntary organizations that work to prevent crime, promote community safety and offer
support and development to young people and vulnerable adults. It is a mix of ceremonial,
charitable and community functions. The role is voluntary, unfunded and non-political.
Gwent is fortunate in having an established Gwent High Sheriffs’ Community Fund. The
Fund aims to provide a safer and better quality of life for the people of Gwent by
supporting community-based initiatives which mentor and inspire young people in order to
help reduce crime and enhance community safety. Current, past and future High Sheriffs
steer the Fund’s Panel, working alongside the Police and Crime Commissioner for Gwent
and the Community Foundation in Wales, who manage the Fund. Recently, the annual
grant-making event, ‘Your Voice, Your Choice’ was held, and £75,000 was awarded from
the Gwent High Sheriffs’ Community Fund to a diverse range of organizations from right
across Gwent. During her year, Claire will be visiting all the projects supported by the
Fund. Already, in her links with these projects, she has been hugely impressed by the
unsung heroes within the small charity and voluntary groups who give so freely of their
time, energy and resources. Speaking at her Declaration Ceremony, Claire said: “It’s usual
for each High Sheriff to choose their own special focus for the time they spend in Office. I
want to celebrate and recognize the achievements of people who give so much to their
communities and offer crucial support to young people and vulnerable adults. It is no
exaggeration to say that these individuals make our world a better place and we should all
be profoundly grateful to them.”
Claire was born in Essex in 1958 and moved to Wales in the 1980s. She was appointed Dame
Commander of the Order of the Bath (DCB) in the 2017 Birthday Honours for public service
in Wales and is a Deputy Lieutenant of Gwent. Claire spent her career in public service and
was Chief Executive and Clerk to the National Assembly for Wales for ten years until 2017
when she retired. Before joining the Assembly, Claire was Chief Executive of Companies
House and Registrar of Companies – the first woman to hold this position in over 150 years.
Claire also spent time on the tiny island of St Helena when her late husband, Mike, was
Chief Secretary and later Governor; here she did some teaching and other voluntary work.
Notes for editors
The ceremony took place on Thursday 28 March 2019. For further information or an
interview, please contact:
Dame Claire Clancy DCB DL
Further information can also be found at: