High Sheriffs Awards
Three months into the Role and the penumbra of being In Nomination is beginning to lift, to be succeeded by the maelstrom of the Real Thing; whether this is a reflection of the abominable weather we are having will no doubt be determined by what arrives at my garden party on 8th July.
The day of my Declaration, however, was an unseasonably hot and brilliantly blue day; hard to believe it was March. The service took place in Guildford Cathedral and very many people from our village showed their support by coming to Evensong during which the Installation took place. It is quite daunting to walk alone up the aisle of the Cathedral but the support I was given was a huge help and I managed the
Declaration without stumbling over the words.
My first engagement was a meeting with the CEO of a small company who found training and jobs for ex-drug addicts who had been in prison. The company, which was not a charity, had recently had their government funding removed and wondered whether I could help
them. I had to explain that, at that moment, there was nothing I could do. However, three months into the role of High Sheriff, I have found a charity which may be interested in helping the company. Fingers crossed on that one.
Over the next few weeks, after my Declaration, invitations steadily poured in and I attended several mayors’ receptions and civic services, crowned a May Queen in the pouring rain, was present at seven
Royal visits, went to all five Surrey prisons, all three magistrates’ courts and attended a large number of other events concerned with my particular interests of illegal substance mis-use and physical disability. I have even played Boccia, though I probably should not boast about that. Boccia is a paralympic sport and, in Surrey, we have a gold medallist from Beijing representing the UK in this year’s Paralympic Games. The game itself can be compared with seated bowls. I had always thought I was rather good at 10-pin bowling but Boccia defeated me. It is one of those games that is far more difficult than it looks. The aficionados shook their heads in pity at my attempts to beat them.
Every day is very busy now and it is unusual to have a day without an engagement. In my other life, I was a Forensic Medical Examiner (FME) for the police as well as the deputy coroner for Surrey. If the police had not terminated the FME contracts by outsourcing the work, I should certainly have had to give in my notice. I find being High Sheriff is all consuming. They say August is quiet, so a year’s worth of theatre and opera will have to be squeezed into August.
The highlight of the year, so far, has to be meeting Her Majesty The Queen at the Derby. The weather was kind and The Queen elegant and charming; an unforgettable experience and an enormous privilege. My sons were thrilled to see it on television, quite by chance.
So, if the next nine months are as good as the first three, I shall be well content.
The High Sheriff being presented to Her Majesty The Queen at Epsom over the Diamond Jubilee
weekend (with Surrey's Lord-Lieutenant, Dame Sarah Goad, DCVO, centre).
As I write this, I have now been High Sheriff of Surrey for five months and this article gives me the welcome opportunity to reflect on this period, not something there has been time to do before. I knew the role would be busy but I certainly had no idea just how busy.
I made my Declaration as High Sheriff in Guildford Cathedral at the end of March on one of the very few brilliantly sunny days that we have had this year. Walking up the aisle to the front of the cathedral was a daunting experience but it was a relief, after four years of waiting to start the role and try to make it my own. 2012, of course, is an amazing year with the Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics and the Paralympics which are still continuing as I write. One of my own interests is physical disability and having been a rheumatologist during my medical career, it seemed obvious to me that I should make this one of the themes for my year.
As far as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee was concerned, it was an extremely busy weekend. The highlight, of course, was going to the Derby and meeting The Queen herself. She was accompanied by quite a few other members of the royal family to whom I was also introduced and one of the princesses complimented me on my hat! Katherine Jenkins’s voice was magical, the sun shone, the lunch was delicious and, apart from losing money on the horses I backed, it was a perfect day. The remainder of the weekend was very busy, attending a street party, a service in the cathedral and, perhaps best of all, lighting the beacon in Hambledon, the village where I live in Surrey. I had been asked to open the fete but sadly it clashed with the Derby and I had had to refuse, so it was a special privilege to light the beacon. This had been set up on one of the highest points in the village and I had strict instructions not to light it until 10.15 pm Being so high up meant that we looked down on our part of Surrey and saw the row of beacons across the South Downs Way being lit one by one until it was my turn to light our beacon. A really historic moment.
Lighting the beacon at Hambledon on Jubilee Monday.
The Olympic cycle race for both men and women took place around Box Hill in Surrey when, for the men, Team GB was unsuccessful in winning gold in spite of riding a magnificent race. The day before the start of the Games, we were driven up Box Hill to view the course and to watch the cyclists practising and we saw them all, including Bradley Wiggins and Mark Cavendish, cycling at speed round and round the course. We also met Austin Playfoot, whom we had met before, a veteran who had carried the Olympic torch in 1948 and who carried it again this year as it passed through Guildford.
I had visited Surrey Schools Para Games on several occasions during the summer term and had become well acquainted with boccia (pronounced botcha). This is a Paralympic sport and in Surrey we have a double gold medallist. Boccia is rather like seated bowls, and having played it several times, I defy anyone to say it is easy. It most definitely is not. I watched our gold medallist demonstrate her technique, which is that of head movement alone, at a school in July. Considering she cannot speak and can move only her head, her accuracy at getting the ball next to the jack is nothing short of brilliant.
So now I am halfway through my year in office and am looking forward to all that the next six months will bring.
Mrs Karin Sehmer
High Sheriff of Surrey 2012-13
The Shrievalty goes back over 1,000 years and it was with a sense of awe that I accepted the unexpected nomination to be High Sheriff. Surrey is a large county with a population of 1.1 million. It contains areas of outstanding natural beauty. It has a low crime rate which reflects its high socio-economic status, but it also has significant pockets of deprivation which are associated with the problems of worklessness and poor health. It has the highest rate of hazardous alcohol consumption in the country.
There were a number of highlights in the Year although in their different ways each of the 300 or so events I attended were uniquely important. My Declaration was at Guildford Cathedral. Formerly the ceremony had been held at County Hall, Kingston, which is technically not in Surrey at all. It was followed by a dinner at the Cathedral refectory, hosted by my predecessor, Robert Douglas, CBE. The Very Reverend Victor Stock,
OAM, Dean of Guildford Cathedral, had kindly consented to be my Chaplain and was magnificent both in his scholarship and humour.
My garden party was held at Brooklands Museum where I am a trustee. There were over 300 attendees and each was invited to gift aid a sum to one of the three charities I was supporting: The High Sheriff Youth Award (HSYA) scheme, SATRO (Science and Technology Regional Organisation) which encourages young people into science and engineering, and Brooklands itself. The sun shone fitfully and the highlight of the afternoon was a flying display by a Spitfire and a Hurricane; 22,000 aircraft had been manufactured there. There was no alcohol as my year was to be ‘dry’ to reinforce the health message about the need to reduce its consumption in the County.
Other features of the Year of any Sheriff include the legal services. Mine was held at Holy Trinity, Guildford with the service conducted by the Rector, the Reverend Robert Cotton. Victor Stock preached on the text of the lesson (Matthew 7: 1-6, ‘Judge not and ye be not judged’). The ensuing lunch was held at the Lakeside Restaurant at Guildford University. I also attended the services for Kent at Rochester Cathedral (Georgie Warner) and West Sussex at Chichester Cathedral (David Tupper).
Legal procession in Guildford High Street.From left to right in front of the Judges: Mrs Georgie Warner, High Sheriff of Kent (2011/2012); Myself; Mrs KA Gore DL, High Sheriff of East Sussex (2011/2012); The Very Reverend Victor Stock
OAM, my Chaplain; Mrs Caroline Breckell MVO, Under Sheriff; Chief Constable Mark Rowley QPM.
Guildford Cathedral celebrated the 50th anniversary of its consecration in 2011, and was blessed by a visit by Her Majesty The Queen who attended the service there. It was a colourful day and the Cathedral was packed to capacity. Later when the snow came, I slept in the cloisters in a cardboard box to raise money for the YMCA. In February 2012 I proclaimed the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty from the steps of Holy Trinity, Guildford, as had a predecessor on her accession, 60 years previously. Inevitably this was followed by a good lunch given by the Mayor and Mayoress, Terence and Angela Patrick.
One of the projects of my year was to raise awareness of excess alcohol consumption. The UK has one of the highest rates of consumption overall, of binge drinking, of under age drinking and of alcoholic liver disease in Europe. Having written a paper on the subject I lobbied the County Council and the Surrey Members of Parliament. With considerable help from Lady O’Connor and the Coram Life Foundation (aided by a grant by the HSYA) and the CEO of Woking Borough, Ray Morgan, a day long symposium on alcohol was held. We were fortunate in being able to welcome Anne Milton MP, Cabinet Minister for Public Health and Professor Sir Ian Gilmore, Past President of the Royal College of Physicians, both of whom contributed.
The HSYA raised and gave out approximately £55,000 to 54 youth groups with the objective of making Surrey safer by youth participation. I visited many of these groups. They varied from the Sea Cadets to youth clubs where the acoustic trauma could be considerable but where the benefit of giving a purpose to young people, some unemployed, was evident. Everywhere one saw the inspirational selflessness of those who helped make these things possible. Of special note was the Surrey Fire and Rescue Service’s ‘Safe Drive Stay Alive’ course which has a profound impact on all who see it. It is aimed at pupils in Years 11 to 13.
Winners of the Lord Lieutenant's Cadet Competition for fundraising for the Royal British Legion.
Front row, left to right: Myself; Dame Sarah Goad DCVO JP, Lord Lieutenant; Air Chief Marshall Sir Stephen Dalton KCB ADC, Chief of the Air Staff; Mr Andrew Moss MEd, Head teacher, Gordon's School.
The handover was on 30th of March, again at Guildford Cathedral, at a ceremony during Evensong, followed by a dinner for 140. I wish Mrs Karin Sehmer, my successor, all the very best for what promises to be a wonderful year in which the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen, and the Olympic Games, will be celebrated.
Professor Michael Joy OBE, MD, FRCP, FACC, FESC, FRAeS
High Sheriff of Surrey 2011/2012