Nick Hayward is about to complete a hectic but enjoyable term as High Sheriff of the Isle of Wight. Here he looks back at some memorable moments:
Dressing up in black velvet Victorian court dress complete with knickerbockers, black tights and carrying a sword didn’t come naturally to me. But I finally got into my full costume in less than 10 minutes!
It’s been a fascinating year full of surprises and often humbling experiences. I would not have missed one day and can only thank the hundreds of Islanders who made this one of the best years of my life.
As High Sheriff I have loved being able to reach out and meet a broad section of the community. John Matthews, having been Under Sheriff to the last eight High Sheriffs was my mentor and guide, while our incredibly hardworking and patient Lord Lieutenant Martin White and his ever efficient assistant Gillian Phenix kindly pointed me in the right direction particularly when I failed to conform to the correct protocol. The Reverend Gerald Reddington, a wise and dear friend, guided me in all things spiritual as my Chaplin.
I discovered parts of the Island I didn’t know existed and frequently found myself scurrying around looking for parking places and the entrance to obscure buildings. I was to be seen running round the Pan Estate, and dashing to take cover from the rain before judging a Kings and Queens competition in Lake. There were fascinating days sitting with the Judge in court witnessing our legal system, and speeding in the Police Rapid Response Car with lights and sirens blazing. Then fulfilling my boyhood dreams splashing down the slip with the Bembridge and Cowes Lifeboats.
In 2008, when Alan Titchmarsh asked me if I would consider being High Sheriff I had not realised it would be in the year of the Olympics and the Queen’s Jubilee. To stand on Cowes parade with wife Nicky to meet the Queen and Prince Philip was an honour and privilege. Then there were the real awakenings when I discovered how much work statutory organisations like the Police and Fire Service do within the community. During the County Show David Biles organised the finest horse drawn carriages in the country to come to the Island, and Nicky and I were majestically driven along Cowes parade.
It was good to discover just how much the Island has to offer; a sparkling performance of ‘Calendar Girls’ at Cowes Trinity Theatre or the newly re-launched Shanklin Theatre with magical hits like ‘Anything Goes’ and the excellent performance of ‘Wizard of Oz’ by the South Wight Youth Theatre Group – all this contrasted by visits to the IW Prison.
I was particularly impressed while attending the Faith Forums where the mutual respect by all members for each other’s belief systems was inspiring. I had no idea there were so many people beavering away in so many dedicated and worthwhile organisations. I recall the day I came across the Pavilion in East Cowes and was told by the police how this small project not only made the area safer but also transformed the lives of disadvantaged local kids.
So many Island volunteers devote their time and efforts to worthwhile causes for decades. While attending the Disability Sailing Day at the Royal Victoria Yacht Club in Fishbourne, I noticed Eddie Minghella in his 90s giving away his ice creams; what an inspiration and stalwart of our community.
There were magnificent ceremonies on the mainland too, interspersed with local shows like the Hospice Highland Games where I was perched on a huge carved throne complete with gigantic thistle. Unfortunately my feet didn’t quite touch the ground, so my thin black-tighted legs swung in the air like an Edwardian child.
I loved the feeling of being able to actually help. Sometimes it was just highlighting a small charity or bringing people together as I was able to do with the Isle of Wight Community Watch and a Youth Group. I attended numerous Citizenship Ceremonies and became acquainted with new members of our society.
Initially I had planned to run two specific initiatives for the young and it was so rewarding to work with retired Judge Tim Milligan and local magistrates Gillian Domeney and Josie Morey and all the schools to take part in the Mock Trials competition. I then visited the schools during the implementation of the DebtCred program making youngsters aware of the potential problems on incurring debt when studying. We visited many Island churches I had never seen, and were honoured to attend the service celebrating 100 years of Quarr Abbey.
Many days Nicky and I found ourselves dashing from one side of the Island to the other. We held a number of events at home and in Nicky’s family’s hotel the Royal at Ventnor, where my brother-in-law William Bailey and his staff were so supportive. Not to mention the fact that our youngest daughter Jules suddenly decided to get married in the middle of my year. So what with that and a good friend Simon Read giving us one of his beautiful Labrador puppies who then kept trying to ladder my tights; it’s certainly been an eventful year!