This is my first report as chairman. Peter Blackmore was obliged to stand down after three energetic years as chairman. I was unable to thank Peter last year at the AGM for all his hard work and would also like to thank him for his support as vice chair this year despite his difficult personal circumstances. I did not volunteer my name initially as I knew that I would be away on the date of our AGM. Shortly after arriving in Brazil, I heard about Alex Cowan's illness and said that the committee members would have to do more to cover his work for the Society. Alex is our archivist, Society representative on several committees and, of immediate importance, the lead figure for Runcorn's 1100 year celebrations. I was then asked if I would accept a nomination as Chairman for 2015/6.
My first duty was to represent the Society for the visit of the Duke of Gloucester to Runcorn on 1 April and guide him and the Mayor around an exhibition of the history of Runcorn at the Town Hall from its foundation by Aethelflaeda up to the present day. Panels from the exhibition have been on display in the Town Hall entrance for several months.
The April talk was given by our own Richard Andrews on the renovation of the Lion Salt Works museum for which he was project manager. Michael Murphy gave the May talk about Merseyside trams and reawakened some old memories.
Prior to our June meeting, Ray Miller was elected Vice President of our Society a richly deserved honour for his work for the Society since its foundation and, in particular, his regular reports of our meetings in the Weekly News. This was followed by a talk on Cheshire murders by Alan Hayhurst an author of five books on murders.
As part of the 1100 celebrations, in June, Professor Graeme White gave a reading of Cheshire's own version of the Magna Carta in the original Latin at the Town Hall to an audience of local schoolchildren and some of our members. The Mayor read a translation in modern English.
Another initiative of the Society, but in conjunction with Runcorn Family History Society, were well-supported tours of Runcorn cemetery given by Maurice Littlemore. Runcorn Rotary has provided £400 to Halton Council for a reprint of the Runcorn Town Trail leaflets.
Peter Elson, a former Liverpool Echo reporter, gave the July talk on the rise, fall and rise of Liverpool as a passenger port with pictures of many famous ships which have sailed to Liverpool.
During July several society members and many other local volunteers including schoolchildren took part in an archaeological dig at Halton Castle under the guidance of archaeologists from Salford University. They excavated several trenches and found an array of artefacts including animal bone, pottery, clay pipe, musket alls, glass and coins as well as two human skeletons buried about 400 years ago.
In August Society members and guests visited Shugborough Hall near Stafford. There were guided tours and walks around the extensive grounds on one of the warmest days of the summer. The funding for the major work on the house was provided by the Admiral Anson. During his naval career, he circumnavigated the globe and captured Spanish treasure ships which provided him with a massive fortune.
The estate remained in the family for three centuries. When it passed to Patrick Lichfield the 5th Earl and society photographer, he agreed to allocate the estate to the National Trust in lieu of death duties. After his death, his apartment is now open to the public and we were able to see his rooms which gave some insight into his private life and his work as a photographer.
In September Graeme Ainsworth gave a talk on the workers from the Salt Union who served in the armed forces in World War One. This was a popular talk as several members relatives were on the roll of honour.
Jane Bradshaw was our October speaker. It was less frenetic than last time but she still managed to create characters from earlier centuries at Tatton
The November talk was given by Margaret Fellows who is one of our regular speakers. This talk was based on the diary of a relative who had fought in the First World War Our December Christmas buffet was preceded by a talk by Paul Quigley about bees and the Walled Garden at Norton Priory. We all learnt something new about bees and everyone also had the chance to taste six different varieties of honey.
Although I was away at the February meeting, I understand that the archive material and old maps created a lot of interaction and the tea, coffee and biscuits went down well.
I must pay a tribute to Stuart Allen for organising the production and erection of 20 plaques recording important local people or buildings. These plaques have been funded by Stuart from his own pocket when he has been unable to get financial support from other sources. It is testament to his love & passion towards Runcorn's history and helping people to learn about it.
If we are to continue as an active local history society, we need more members and I would encourage you to ask any friends and relatives who might be interested to come along to one of our meetings.
Finally, I would to thank all the committee members for their hard work in organising meetings and other activities for the Society. No Society can operate effectively without a good committee and we are particularly lucky that we have people who have the necessary skills and are willing to work hard.