28th October 2018 – St John, West Glamorgan
The new County Cadets were selected. I’m pictured here with Dr Edward Roberts, Chair of St. John West Glamorgan, presenting the award. The County Cadets are also appointed as High Sheriff Cadets at a separate ceremony.
27th October 2018 – Poppy Appeal Concert
Held at the Lyric Theatre in Carmarthen. A fantastic programme of entertainment, it was also very poignant, especially when the poppies fluttered down whilst the last post was played.
Fact: In the UK this year over 40 million poppies will be distributed by 40,000 volunteers with aim of raising £50 million.
Cross of Peace Ceremony,
Danygraig Cemetery, St Thomas, Swansea
Alderman Charles Thomas (far right) introduced this event 17 years ago. Sadly, Charles passed away recently and this is the first year in which the ceremony has taken place without him. Byron Lewis, Lord Lieutenant, paid tribute to Charles Thomas when he spoke at the Cross.
The Cross was first placed in Danygraig cemetery by the War Graves Commission in 1923. Children from the local primary schools and cadets represent a significant part of the ceremony, together with dignitaries and other members of the community.
25th October 2018 – South West Wales Annual Police Awards
The awards took place at the Brangwyn Hall. It was an impressive and yet humbling event where both serving officers and support staff were recognised and honoured for their contribution.
Previously I’ve mentioned the ancient office (1602 to 1990) of the Police Halberdiers. For this special awards event in Swansea they were reintroduced again, together with mounted police horses, as a guard of honour. Hopefully, they may become a regular sight at future ceremonial occasions.
The Three High Sheriffs of South/Mid/West Glamorgan were very proud to present the Shrievalty Cup as part of the awards ceremony.
24th October 2018 – Visit by The Princess Royal
This took place at Ysgol Bae Baglan School in Port Talbot; later Princess Anne visited the Port Talbot RNLI station. The visit, carefully planned and organised by the Lord Lieutenant, went off very well – certainly HRH appeared to enjoy it.
It was my first time at this new and impressive school which has over 1,700 pupils aged 3 to 16 years and boasting the latest technology to revolutionise teacher-student interaction.
14th October 2018 – Service to Mark the Beginning of the Legal Year
This was held in Bangor this year. It is an annual event which alternates between Bangor Cathedral in the north and Llandaff Cathedral in the south of Wales. It is attended by all the High Sheriffs in Wales and the judiciary, including the Lord Chief Justice. As is customary, a dinner with all the High Sheriffs was held the evening before the Sunday Legal Service and with thanks to our host Kathryn Ellis, High Sheriff of Gwynedd, that proved a very enjoyable evening.
The photo shows the ‘Three Glamorgans’ (or, as we refer to ourselves, the ‘Three Amigos’). In the middle is Brian Lakin of South Glamorgan and on the right is Jon Wall of Mid Glamorgan.
2nd October 2018 – Swansea Magistrates’ Courts
The court hears cases throughout West Glamorgan. Although the office of Justice of the Peace (JP) is not as old as the High Sheriff, it can trace its origins back to the reign of Richard I, over 650 years ago.
As High Sheriff, I was keen to observe the proceedings where nearly all criminal cases start and more than 85% of the judiciary is represented.
Sitting in Court 1, I witnessed a wide range of cases and was very impressed with the professionalism shown by our magistrates. I am grateful to Stephen Rogers JP, Chair of the West Glamorgan Magistrates’ Bench, for kindly hosting my visit.
25th September 2018 – Interfaith Week 2018 and Muslim Council of Wales
Keen to promote inclusiveness, I have focussed my year on BAME communities and multi-faith groups. I was delighted therefore to be invited by the Muslim Council of Wales to their Interfaith Seminar at City Hall in Cardiff.Earlier that day I had attended South West Wales BAME Regional Meeting in Swansea. These two events not only provided me with an insight as to the current challenges, but also gave hope that much is still achievable.
The Swansea Police Halberdiers (1602 to 1990)
In the middle ages Swansea was governed by a ‘Portreeve’ – Port meaning ‘Market Town’ and Reeve meaning high ranking official (not dissimilar to the origins of High Sheriff with the corruption of ‘Shire Reeve’). Constables were appointed to protect the Portreeve and his officials and amongst these constables Halberdiers were selected to form a protective barrier around officials.These duties commenced in 1602 and in later years took on a ceremonial role accompanying assize court judges. This ceremonial role ceased in 1990, however can be re-introduced at any time. I rather favour it being re-introduced now for the protection of the High Sheriff.
BAWSO is a charity that I have aligned with as part of my efforts to reach out to the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic community (BAME).
It is an All Wales voluntary organisation, providing specialist services to victims and BAME people affected or at risk of Domestic Abuse and all forms of violence including FGM (Female Genital Mutilation), Forced Marriage, Honour Based Violence and Human Trafficking. I am attending a series of workshops to understand the cultural aspects behind these issues and what could be done to stop such practices. On 17th September I attended a seminar on FGM. It was graphic, disturbing and yet informative. Sadly, and perhaps surprisingly, there is a continuing need for BAWSO services and I feel committed to support them in their good work.
8th September 2018 – West Glamorgan St John Wales
“Cycle Response Unit” (CRU)
Professor Donna Mead was the catalyst for this initiative when she was High Sheriff a couple of years ago. Two Bicycles (with more on the way) and 13 trained advanced first-aiders now provide this service which is ideal for responding to incidents within crowded busy areas.Adam Cousins, Danielle and Kevin Lippiatt were presented with High Sheriff certificates for their dedication and contribution to making the CRU a reality.
2nd September 2018 – Merchant Navy Day
The Lord Lieutenant and I laid a wreath at the Memorial in Swansea dedicated to the Merchant Navy. The memorial in Technium Square SA1 is made of granite and slate and was erected in 2005 by the Merchant Navy Association.The Merchant Navy has been referred to as the “forgotten forth service” of the two World Wars. At least 35,000 British merchant sailors were killed in the Second World War, a greater proportion of the Merchant Navy’s strength than was lost by the other three services.
26th August 2018 – The High Sheriff’s Medieval Banquet
This was my main charity event and took place on Sunday evening 26th August at Oystermouth Castle, Mumbles. My objective was not only to raise money for my two charities, Crimebeat and Mumbles RNLI, but also to raise the profile of those charities and the Shrievalty by engaging with the wider public. With a lot of effort and support from the Shrievalty, family and friends, I think those objectives were achieved. Despite the rain earlier in the day, over 400 people attended and with some rounding up by me £5000 raised for the charities. It was great to see the High Sheriff’s flag over Oystermouth Castle. The collage of photos below is testimony to the fun that was had.
12th August 2018 – Sanctuary Seekers’ Mumbles Visit
A day out for refugee & asylum seekers to Mumbles. The challenge is to integrate these people into the wider community; this is difficult given the cultural and language differences, and more so as they are not allowed to work and have to live on an allowance of just over £30 per week. It means that even a family trip out is impossible for most “Sanctutorians” (a name I’ve just made up!).
Swansea was the first city in Wales and only the second city in the UK to be declared a ‘City of Sanctuary’. The day was well organised with various activities and a splendid lunch. The children were fascinated with my court sword and the adults delighted in taking photos with me in my lace and stockings!
10th August 2018 – Morriston Fire Station
Our Fire Service is so skilled and has to be prepared for such a wide range of applications. Road Traffic Accidents represent a large portion of their work. A very impressive demonstration was conducted where a scrapped car (or certainly it was afterwards!) had its doors, windows and roof taken off to provide access to a potential injured person – using the “jaws of life”, all within only just a few minutes.
The height of my visit (literally) was when I was invited to ride on the Aerial Ladder Platform. In the first photo below I was feeling quite brave, in the middle photo I discovered that the young firefighter operating this equipment had only been in the service for just 3 months (I tried to comfort myself that whilst he may have been inexperienced, his knowledge was up to date). In the 3rdphoto …. it’s just as well that you cannot see the detail – this young inexperienced and yet knowledgeable firefighter had suddenly become my best friend (and that’s the only reason why I was hugging him!).
2nd August 2018 – The Old Bailey, London
This was a truly memorable experience. HHJ Nicholas Cooke QC had invited the South Wales High Sheriffs of Gwent, South, Mid and West Glamorgan to sit with him in Criminal Court 1. Evidently, the name ‘Old Bailey’ comes from the street on which the court is located. The road marks the route of the City’s original fortified wall (or ‘bailey’). Given its proper name of Central Criminal Court, its jurisdiction has extended beyond the City and Middlesex to the rest of England and Wales.Among the famous trials are those of Oscar Wilde, Dr Crippen, William Joyce (‘Lord Haw Haw’), John Christie, Peter Sutcliffe, the ‘Yorkshire Ripper’ and the Krays – it is reported that just before sentencing, Ronnie quipped to the judge: “If I wasn’t here, I could be having tea with Judy Garland.”
At Lunch time the High Sheriffs were invited to stand in the Dock to receive a welcoming address from the Sheriff of the City of London, Alderman Tim Hailes. It was somewhat eerie to be standing where so many infamous people had stood. To my right was the tiled stairwell down to the jails – in sharp contrast to the splendour of the court room.
The adjacent photo is of Criminal Court #1; I sat on the second chair in from the right. The middle chair is always left vacant for the Lord Mayor.
Port Talbot Muslim Welfare Association
Recently I was invited as ‘Guest of Honour’ to the Port Talbot Muslim Welfare Association to present awards at their 2018 ‘Jalsa’ ceremony. The event took place at the Princess Royal Theatre and the recipients were Muslim children who had studied the Koran and Arabic. In fact, they learn much more including a strong value system of tolerance, respect and self-discipline; it is most impressive.
I had arranged a surprise presentation to the Imam and with my Chaplain’s approval appointed him as a “Faith Advisor” to the High Sheriff. He was very pleased with this; however, he had a surprise of his own and presented me with an award with the inscription “In recognition for your support to the Muslim community of Port Talbot in promoting tolerance and integration”. It was very humbling and in essence reflects the Muslim community’s own desire for tolerance and integration!
July is the season of graduations and with two universities (Swansea and University of Wales, TSD) it’s always quite a challenge – particularly in this heat wave and dressed in velvet! Both Vice-Chancellors recognised the importance of celebrating not only academic success at their graduations, but also student outreach through volunteering and, therefore, supportive of a ‘High Sheriff’s Award for Student Volunteering’. Above I am presenting the award to Emily James (Swansea) and in the bottom photo to Declan Heather (Trinity St David).
I managed to attend nearly all the graduations (interrupted by a Citizenship). Whilst applauding the graduates coming on stage, I have to confess that I did distract myself at one point where I calculated that between the two universities I have clapped more than 100,000 times – now applying Savlon to the blisters!
St John Cadets
These are the lifeblood of the St. John movement and the West Glamorgan Division is a very active unit of St. John Cymru-Wales. Here are Katie (left) and Kelsey (right) who are County Cadets representing the unitary authorities of Swansea and Neath Port Talbot, respectively. As part of my quest to engage closer with the 3 emergency services of Police, Fire, Ambulance, I have appointed these two cadets as High Sheriff Cadets and presented them both with a Shrievalty badge to wear on their uniform.
4th July 2018 – Crucial Crew, NPT
A well attended and enjoyable occasion where pupils aged 10 – 12 from local schools in Neath Port Talbot area receive essential and life-saving safety and PSHE messages (Personal Social Health and Economic). It is a free service which is all inclusive and open to every school in a participating authority. The sessions are designed to be relevant, engaging, curriculum linked advice involving real life situations.I was really impressed by the extent to which the children engaged and benefited and how well it was organised with the support of NPT Community Safety team. Discussions are now in hand to explore how this initiative could be re-introduced in Swansea which use to host Crucial Crew before falling victim to austerity cuts.
2nd July 2018 – Crown Court, Swansea
This was my first opportunity to sit on the Bench in court with the Honorable Recorder for Swansea, Keith Thomas. It was a murder trial where the defendant, after stabbing his partner 26 times, claimed self-defence. Although it was very interesting for me, it was obviously a distressing time for the victim’s family.
The jury found him guilty and the Judge gave a mandatory life sentence with a recommendation of a minimum of 19 years before being considered for probation.
Wales UOTC (University Officer Training Corps)
The University Officer Training Corps is a disciplined cadet force drawn from the various universities within Wales. The main objective is to source recruitment within the armed services; however, it’s accepted that some may not go down that route, nevertheless, the training and personal development given will hold these individuals in good stead for whatever career they may choose afterwards.
WUOTC were on a two week summer exercise and I joined them in Sennybridge – they are really put through their paces with some realistic battle scenarios. As you will see from the photo, I had just come off man oeuvres leading my unit through a minefield (or, I may have just stumbled across this group on my way to the Officers’ Mess!). Either way, these youngsters are really impressive.
St John Investiture at Llandaff Cathedral
This was a new experience for me – not least because it was the first time I had been formally presented to a Royal, HRH Duchess of Gloucester.
It was particularly pleasing to see members of our Shrievalty being honoured by St John. Donna Mead became a Commander; Ed Roberts an Officer; and Rowland Jones a Member of this ancient order of chivalry. Congratulations to you all!
21st June 2018 – Curry Night in aid of St John
This was organised at Neath Cricket Club and was my first charity event. It turned out to be a resounding success in terms of both fun and money raised.Although only a relatively small affair, we raised £1,250 with all the proceeds going to the Charity as neither Bryn (who provided and cooked the curry) nor the Cricket Club charged any costs. Rotary were also there in numbers – both as guests and helping out in the kitchen. Well done to all who supported this.
20th June 2018 – Court of Appeal Dinner
Held at the Mansion House on 20th June and was a unique event as there were not only 3 High Court Judges, but also 3 Court of Appeal Judges in attendance, plus many of their wives – in total there were 42 of us!All the judges were fabulous company and in a game similar to ‘musical chairs’ we managed to mix the guests with judges during the meal. The atmosphere was really like having a party with your best friends – simply an incredible evening which was commented upon by the judges on the night and in several letters received afterwards.
Armed Forces Day
The Armed Forces Day has taken place in Neath, Port Talbot and Swansea; and I’ve managed to attend all of these ceremonies. The Swansea event was the largest as it coincided with the Air Wales Display. The Red Arrows stole the show again this year, but I wonder how many people realised that the High Sheriff was flying the lead Aircraft!At the same event, there was a dedication and blessing of four WW1 centenary benches – Rev. Lionel Hopkins admitted that this was a first for him! However, the ceremony was very dignified and the benches themselves were nicely painted with poppies and silhouettes of soldiers – pieces of art!
Mid & West Wales Fire Authority
Hosted an open day at their Carmarthen HQ for the three High Sheriffs that fall within their jurisdiction (Powys, Dyfed& West Glamorgan). It feels a little odd to be outside the normal Shrievalty trio of the Glamorgans, but our colleagues to the west and north are sincere and great people to work with.
MWW Fire organises this event each year for the three High Sheriffs and it’s a great demonstration of the professionalism of the Fire Service. It involves visiting the nearby Carmarthen Fire Station where the fire fighters make an impressive presentation.
MWW Fire covers about two thirds of Wales!
6th June 2018 – Celebration of Volunteering NPT CVS
Took place at Baglan Community Church attended by the Neath Port Talbot Mayor/Mayoress, AMs and distinguished volunteers from across the third sector. It was a very enjoyable evening; and professionally organised by Gaynor Richards and her team. I have to confess that I find these occasions very humbling.
31st May 2018 – Royal Garden Party
May ended on a high note with a Garden Party at Buckingham Palace. It was very well organised and the weather pleasant. In the photo of Her Majesty it appears that she is sharing a joke with Prince William – certainly looking healthy and relaxed.
In the evening visited The Old Bailey, hosted by the Sheriffs of the City of London. Very interesting and also offered to sit with a judge in criminal court 1.
12th May 2018 – Inauguration of Swansea’s Lord Mayor
Lord Mayor’s Inaugurationat the Guildhall in Swansea was a very pleasant experience. I only had a couple of months with the outgoing Lord Mayor, Philip Downing. Philip and his wife, Lilian, were very friendly and supportive. So, we now have a new Lord Mayor, David Phillips, and Deputy Lord Mayor, Peter Black.
12th May 2018 – The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army’scelebration concert of 75 years of music at the Morriston Citadel was held at Swansea’s “cathedral church”, St. David’s, and had representatives of The Salvation Army from the four quarters of the UK: Northern Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales. The Belfast Temple Band together with the massed choir was truly inspirational. I simply had to see and hear them again – so I attended the following day’s meeting in Morriston.
11th May 2018 – Cym Brombil Ladies WI
Cym Brombil Ladies WIonly formed last year and they pulled off an impressive exhibition at Margam Abbey of “Women in World War 1”. It charts the effect of the conflict on the women of Port Talbot with local history, personal stories and pictures on display. Worth seeing; the exhibition remains open until November
10th May 2018 – Swansea’s Lord Mayor’s Summer Ball
Lord Mayor’s Summer Honours Ballat the Brangwyn Hall was a special occasion where the great and good of Swansea were recognised and over £4,000 raised for the Lord Mayor’s charity. You may recognise the person sitting (front left) is Wynne Evans, the Welsh tenor (‘go compare’ TV adverts) he was a very entertaining
6th May 2018 – VE Day Ceremony
I joined the Lord Lieutenant and Lord Mayor of Swansea to lay a wreath at “The Gun” in Swansea (see photo below). This is a monument to the Air Defence of Swansea and dedicated to the heroic people of the City who lost their lives or who were wounded on those 3 fateful nights in February 1941 during WW2 in the Blitz.
During this blitz 30,000 incendiary and 800 high-explosive bombs rained down resulting in 230 Swansea residents dead and more than 400 injured. There was also more than 850 properties destroyed and 11,000 buildings damaged; Swansea was flattened.
The bright sunny weather yesterday brought a large crowd out to pay their respects; it was good to see so many young people take part in a march past.
Weekend of 21st April 2018 – RAF Centenary Celebrations
Another highlight in the month has been the RAF Centenary Celebrationsin Swansea. There was the raising of the RAF ensign; a marvellous evening concert in the Brangwyn Hall; and a march-through of what I think was the largest military parade in Wales. It was a mixture of joyfulness and poignancy given the history of the last 100 years.
I even had the opportunityto inspect the guard on parade! I failed to appreciate how difficult that would be – Her Majesty makes it look very simple. It has to be said that the British really does do these things very well!
17th April 2018 – Citizenship Ceremony
I have now attended my first Citizenship Ceremony. Swansea conducts this very well It is always a pleasant event. In my talk about the history of the High Sheriff I told them the story of the ‘Battle of Lincoln” in 1217 where the first reputed lady High Sheriff, Dame Nicola de le Haye, in her mid-60’s successfully defended a siege of over 3 months by French invaders.
I suggested to the attentive new citizens that had it not been for that High Sheriff we would all be French today (I then had to quickly recover and say that there was nothing wrong with being French – we love the French – it’s just not what they had signed up for today).
27th March 2018
High Sheriff’s Declaration Ceremony at Margam Abbey
Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant for West Glamorgan, Byron Lewis KStJ and Henry Gilbert, High Sheriff for West Glamorgan.
My ‘D-day’ (Declaration day) was a marvellous occasion – not even a drop of rain! Although it’s a little strange wearing court dress; I think I can get use to wearing lace and stockings!
The ceremony was well attended with nearly 150 guests. My declaration was made at Margam Abbey which was founded in 1147 and later restored by the Talbot family in the mid-nineteenth century. Interestingly, within the Abbey there are good examples of ‘Mumbles Marble’ which was quarried not far from where I live today in Mumbles. The Abbey’s fine classic features gave the occasion the gravitas that it deserved.
My declaration was taken by His Honour, Sir Wyn Williams, President of the Welsh Tribunals;and Her Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant, Byron Lewis, as Keeper of the Rolls, read the Warrant of Appointment. The declaration itself is the approved version by the Privy Council and, frankly, not the easiest flow of words to read. Although there are only two sentences, the first is 342 words (demands great breath control!).
There was some pomp with fanfares from Herald Trumpeters and majestic organ playing by the Reverend Cannon William Hanford. The declaration was concluded with a children’s choir from Oystermouth Primary School in Mumbles – Lyn, my wife, retired as a teacher from Oystermouth and my daughter, Ella, currently works there supporting children with special education needs. Therefore, the children’s involvement had a special meaning.
After the formal declaration we all retired to the Orangery in Margam for ‘High Tea’. This is alisted Grade I structure and generally regarded as one of the finest classical buildings in Wales. Built in 1790 it was, as the name implies, intended to house citrus trees. Now it is one of the grandest venues in the County and thereby a perfect setting for a High Sheriff’s Tea reception!
So, my first day as High Sheriff has gone very well. Because of the way Easter falls this year and next, I have slightly longer than a year – 55 weeks to be exact – only 384 days to go!