Last Thursday, Jean, George and I and our respective husbands and wife went to Corpus Christi College for the annual Cambridge City Council Mayor’s Dinner – to celebrate the mayoral year of the outgoing mayor, Cllr Sheila Stuart. After a civilized aperitif in the college gardens, we filed into the dining hall for a feast, with the learned men of bygone ages looking down on us.
On my own table were councillors old and new, with their partners – on the other two tables were people who have contributed to the city in various ways, including Marshalls and Addenbrooke’s.
Sheila had asked one of our local celebrities, Allan Brigham, to propose a toast to her year of office. Allan is probably the City Council’s best-known employee. During the day he works as a street-sweeper, but in his spare time, he is a Blue Badge Guide and local historian who shares his in-depth knowledge of the city’s history by conducting tours. A couple of years ago, he was awarded an honorary M.A. by the University of Cambridge ‘for services to the community as an historian’.
Allan shared some of this with us on Thursday, reminding us that the college we were sitting in, although the only Oxbridge college to have been founded by the people of the town, despite being stormed by the mayor and townspeople 30 years later, demanding lower rents! The 19th-century architect, William Wilkins, had also designed Downing College and worked at Trinity.
Allan went on to pay tribute to Sheila, saying she had given us ‘a sense of place’ and praising her qualities of ‘showing interest, making time and having the energy’.
He highlighted some of Sheila’s ‘firsts’ in her year as mayor: walking the full 5 miles in the Bridge the Gap walk, cycling all the way to Reach Fair. Some scary ones too, such as abseiling down the side of the Guildhall for charity! He also spoke of the ordinary events such as showing schoolchildren round the Guildhall, chatting to the market traders. (In Queen Edith’s we welcomed Sheila last year both to our Party in the Park at Nightingale Avenue Recreation Ground (pictured) and to the Christmas Carols event outside the Wulfstan Way shops.
Allan concluded by wishing Sheila and Bruce well as they went back to leading a normal life, with the hope that they could ‘have a holiday without having to shake hands all the time’.
Well done to Sheila and Bruce from me. And to Allan. You’ve all done us proud!