Cllr Susan Carey, chairman of Shepway District Council with Deputy Lieutenant Robert Alston, and Lydd resident, in the Chapter House of Canterbury Cathedral before the Lord Lieutenant's Civic Service on 29 March 2011. Over 1,200 elected representatives, service personnel, representatives of voluntary groups and the families of 65 fallen soldiers gathered for Allan Willets last Civic Service before his term of office as Lord Lieutenant ends.
The following is the address by the Lord Lieutenant of Kent, Allan Willett CMG, at the Civic Service, Canterbury Cathetdral on Tuesday 29th March 2011
This wonderful Cathedral, once again provides the magnificent setting for this occasion of celebration and thanksgiving for your service to our communities.
It was on this site that St Augustine baptised King Ethelbert of Kent and from that climactic moment in sprang Ethelbert’s First English Code of Law and the first writing in the English language.
It all started on this very spot where the Cathedral stands today, a powerful symbol of Kent’s history and heritage
When St Augustine came in 597 AD, Kent was already an established Kingdom.
All of you present in this Holy place on this Kentish morning – and there are more than 1,200 in the congregation today – are the living proof of a wonderful continuity of service that stretches back to those times.
So significant is this Civic Service that my Foundation has endowed the Lieutenancy so that if future Lord Lieutenants so wish all the costs will be met by my Foundation of this quintessential Kentish celebration
Since its inception this service has rotated between here, Rochester Cathedral – that other jewel of English Christianity, founded by St Augustine based here in Kent and the great church of All Saints in our County town of Maidstone...
I recall that at the first Civic Service some nine years ago I said as I looked around this iconic building, that I was struck by the thought that regardless of religion or political beliefs, the distinguished congregation gathered shared two things in common:
- Dedication and service to their communities
- And a love of Kent
and a confident belief in its future.
I submit: The same holds true today.
Here today we have Peregrine Massey, who is just completing his year as High Sheriff, and his wife Deidre who have done wonderful work over the last year for Kent.
We thank them and all the previous High Sheriffs – many of whom are here with us today – and who have served this County so well.
We also welcome Mrs Georgie Warner, the High Sheriff designate, who is present today with her husband, Charles. We wish them God speed for their important work over the next 12 months.
It is my happy task today to welcome and thank the many Town Mayors, Mayors and Chairman for the self-less work you do during your year of office, and also to thank the more than 250 County, District, Borough and Parish Councillors in the congregation. Be assured that your work on behalf of your communities is valued – and without it our lovely County simply would not function.
I am pleased to see that Kent’s 800-plus JPs are well represented here today.
This year we will be marking the 650th anniversary of the Magistracy which is the single most important component in the criminal justice system in this country.
Our magistrates in Kent represent local, visible justice and I thank them for dedicating themselves freely to this vital task.
Also with us today are some 70 representatives of the Emergency Services, the Health Care Services, including the hospices and uniformed volunteers such as St John and the Red Cross.
I thank all of them on behalf of Her Majesty for protecting and looking after the welfare of those in our communities.
I am delighted to see so many members of the many splendid voluntary organisations, how much poorer our communities would be without their unstinting and unselfish service.
We welcome members of the business community including winners of The Queen’s Awards for Business. As a former businessman myself I am very well aware of the challenges you face and I thank you all for the work you do to provide jobs and create wealth for the people of our County in these most difficult times.
During my time as Lord Lieutenant I have placed great emphasis on our young people, who represent the future of our County.
I am pleased to welcome and thank the many present here today involved in education, including more than 120 school governors who do such essential voluntary work,
I am especially pleased to welcome members of our youth organisations and their adult leaders. In particular we welcome today members of our splendid Cadet Forces, Scouts and Guides
The education and development of our young people is of the utmost importance. The future of our communities depends on our ability to create a healthy and expanding knowledge-based economy.
I wish to particularly thank the 50 representatives here today of the Association of the Men of Kent and Kentish Men who cherish and work tirelessly for the good of our County.
Also being remembered here today are members of our Armed Forces, including some recovering casualties – and members of their families. It is particularly pleasing to welcome back members of the Canterbury-based unit, the 5 Scots, our very own Highlanders we are enormously proud of you
Over the last year I had the honour of presenting on behalf of Her Majesty the newly-created Elizabeth Cross to the relatives of those who have so sadly died while on operational service since World War II, in wars and campaigns stretching from Korea to Afghanistan. I am delighted to welcome 65 family members of those who made that supreme sacrifice.
Let us also never forget that, as I speak, our young Servicemen and Women are risking their lives in Afghanistan and Libya. We salute them all and express our heartfelt support for the families who wait with such dignity and fortitude.
Thanks, too, to those who work so hard for the Service charities, the Royal British Legion, SSAFA, The Soldier’s Charity and Help for Heroes – who provide essential support for our Service personnel and their families.
Thank you everyone on behalf of our Queen, our Nation – and the people of our County of Kent.
When I received the letter from the then Prime Minister asking if I would agree to my name going forward to Her Majesty recommending that I should be her next Lord Lieutenant for Kent I took it to be a great honour which of course it was, and is. I was also invited to discuss the position with the then Prime Minister’s appointment Secretary. At that meeting it was emphasised to me that Buckingham Palace and 10 Downing Street realised that the Lieutenancies as a whole needed to be modernised. It was pointed out to me that is no reflection on previous Lord Lieutenants.
The fact is that the Lieutenancy has been evolving since 1558 when it first started
This modernisation caught my imagination and appealed to me. My family and my wife’s family, were Kentish Farmers, I had lived on a farm in Kent for most of my youth. I loved this County and its history, and I believed I could make a difference.
Kent today still faces massive forces of change: The new high speed railway is transforming the East of our County into commuter country.
And the great mass of London is today less of a barrier that originally made Kent an island.
London, the only true world city, can only expand, eastwards, north and south of the Thames. This, and the Thames Gateway development presents us with both opportunities and dangers.
These changes give this Lieutenancy the opportunity to play an increasing and significant role in keeping alive the unique spirit of Kent.
As the only independent pan-County team the Lieutenancy needs to create cohesion, celebrate Kent’s identity, represent its soul – and add value to its communities. But we can only do this if the people of Kent are aware of the Lieutenancy and what it is trying to achieve, so we need to raise the Lieutenancy’s profile.
In addition to representing the areas in which they live some DLs have taken on special roles such as reporting on our rural economy, our Armed Forces, the emergency services, the faith communities, manufacturing the economy, youth, education, sport, and so on.
Just as the monarchy is evolving so must the Lieutenancy be seen to be doing so so as to be relevant for the 21st Century.
We need to celebrate Kent’s unique history and culture, serve its communities – and contribute positively to its future. But always needed to remember that the Lieutenancy is not elected
And so the modernised Lieutenancy in addition to representing the Monarchy set out to be more integrated, relevant and visible to our communities and be knowledgeable about all the key sectors, and institutions that make up this great County.
Consequently, we developed key networks, made up of the local authorities, the local communities and many others
We took a lead in encouraging greater public support for our Armed Forces and their families left here in our care – and what a wonderful response we got from all the local authorities and from the public.
We became involved in the organisation of parades and many other events honouring our Armed Forces.
We took the lead in organising celebrations of youth achievement and of volunteering in the community.
We led civic receptions and services thanking all those who do so much for the good of our County of Kent and its communities, as we are doing here today
We were privileged to look after Her Majesty The Queen when she came to Kent and other members of the Royal family whose visits give a tremendous boost to our communities.
We took part in citizenship ceremonies, presented awards, such as The Queen’s Awards for both voluntary service and business enterprise.
And we created new awards – such as the Spirit of Kent Award for exceptional service to our County.
We created a special uniformed team of DLs who lectured to influential groups.
The sum of all this is that we now have a repositioned, modernised Lieutenancy. The Lieutenancy today attends and leads some 700 events per year
This modernisation was never going to work as a one-man band. This Lieutenancy has great strength in depth and all contributed.
We can genuinely claim we did it together.
I feel I have been on a wonderful journey with Kent and I want to thank you all but in particularly I want to thank Robert Willis, the Dean of Canterbury, my wife Anne, for all the wonderful support she has given to me during my time as Lord Lieutenant of Kent.
I have been extraordinarily fortunate with my DLs both those I inherited from my predecessor The Lord Kingsdown and also I choose myself. In the main, but not exclusively, the uniformed DLs and others do an outstanding job.
I also thank my Vice-Lord Lieutenant Viscount De L’Isle, Paul Carter and Alex King of Kent County Council, Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma, Brigadier Maurice Atherton for his help in being the bridge between the Kingsdown’s and my Lieutenancy. Rodney Chambers of Medway Council; Lady Bruce-Lockhart; Lord and Lady Kingsdown for their unfailing support for matters Kentish; Brigadier David Ralls, my Chief of Staff and Colonel David McDine, my Media Officer. Without the support of all the above The Lieutenancy would not have succeeded.
No-one is more proud than I am of our lovely County’s extraordinary history. But I put it to you that however proud of it we are, the past is the past. The really important thing is the future.
Today, I leave you with this last message:
“Let us go forward together, proud of our past and confident of our future”.
Thanks be to God.
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