Monday, 21 June 2021

Retiring town clerk speaks to Rotarians

THE last time Henley town clerk Michael Kennedy spoke to Henley Rotary Club was in November 2009, a

THE last time Henley town clerk Michael Kennedy spoke to Henley Rotary Club was in November 2009, a little over a year after his appointment, when he gave a light-hearted but informative talk on the responsibilities of Henley Town Council and himself, writes John Luker.

On Tuesday last week, he was back on his feet having been inducted as the club’s newest member.

Mr Kennedy, who is to retire in February, said that he attended his first parish council meeting at Abbots Langley at the age of 16.

He later became a trainee auditor with Rickmansworth District Council, which became Three Rivers District Council after local government re-organisation in 1974.

After spending eight years with the London borough of Brent, he applied for the post of town clerk at his then home town of Chesham, being appointed when the first- choice candidate withdrew. He was at Chesham from 1989 to 2002, then spent periods in Huntingdon and Ware before coming to Henley in 2008.

Mr Kennedy explained that there were three levels of local government — county, district and parish councils (Henley Town Council is actually a parish council).

He said the only statutory duty of parish councils was to provide allotments but they had the power to provide cemeteries, police community support officers, CCTV cameras and to manage their various assets, which in Henley’s case include the town hall, Red Lion Lawn, the moorings, the Mill Meadows car park and Dry Leas, home of Henley Rugby Club.

Mr Kennedy said the first mayor of Henley was a man called George Harrison while the first clerk was Robert Symon, who was appointed in 1418.

John Buck held the record for the longest tenure as clerk, serving from 1590 to 1652, a period of 62 years, giving rise to the inevitable quip of being unable to “pass the buck”!

Another of Mr Kennedy’s predecessors was Francis Blandy, who was poisoned by his daughter, Mary, while six members of the Cooper family held the post between the 18th and 20th centuries.

Philip Fletcher, the club secretary, gave the vote of thanks.

The previous week, members and partners enjoyed a Christmas celebration at Henley Golf Club when music (and new lyrics for a well-known Gilbert and Sullivan song) were supplied by honorary member Ken Fitt.

This week, members were having a relaxed fellowship lunch before reconvening on January 5.

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