Charles Kenyon: How our high sheriffs support social cohesion

A new high sheriff is appointed every year, bringing new skills and interests to the post, says our columnist

Lady Day, 25 March, is the day that the man or woman appointed as high sheriff for the year begins their role. The post is a colourful one – men dress in court breeches and a ruffled shirt, and women can design their own outfits – and is a great draw for ceremony and tradition. In the past, high sheriffs were responsible for maintaining law and order, but now the role is mainly ceremonial and involves hosting High Court judges and attending royal visits. The high sheriff, who receives no pay, also promotes social cohesion, primarily through youth and community activity and the work of voluntary organisations.

Many high sheriffs make awards to the voluntary sector, often giving the first public recognition to individuals and the small voluntary groups who have made outstanding contributions. As a new high sheriff is appointed every year, each will bring his or her own skills and interests to the post, stimulating enthusiasm for activities from sports clubs to cadet forces, choirs to environmental groups, homelessness and befriending the old.

The popular retiring high sheriff in Lincolnshire has links with more than 50 local charities, and he and his wife have hosted many fundraising events for local charities during the year.

For his successor come the 800th anniversary celebrations of the Magna Carta, the Lincoln copy of which is kept in the newly renovated Lincoln Castle. In 1215, the castle was held by Nicholaa de la Haye, who in 1216 became the first female high sheriff.

Charles Kenyon lives near Market Rasen, retiredcolonel@oldvicarage.net

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