Wednesday 13 December 2017

Almost seven centuries Of history will come to an end

The Municipal Buildings, where the Borough Council sat for many years.
The Municipal Buildings, where the Borough Council sat for many years.

WILL Environment Minister Phil Hogan's overhaul of local government wipe out 700 years of Wexford history?

Yes, according to the town's longest serving councillor Padge Reck, author of 'Wexford - A Municipal History'.

The Borough Council is to be abolished and in its place a new Municipal Borough will be established, taking in the rural hinterland around the town.

Cllr. Reck believes it signals the end of Wexford's special status within the county.

Unlike other towns, Wexford has enjoyed the tradition of electing a Mayor since 1317 when the Earl of Pembroke, Aymer de Valence granted the town a charter.

One of the main provisions of this charter was the appointment of burgesses from whom the Mayor and bailiffs were chosen.

The burgesses were elected annually and had the power to hold a Sovereign or Mayor's Court in the Tholsel, a premises in the Bullring where Corporation meetingsw were held.

The building also served as a Mayor's prison as distinct from a King's prison which was in the Castle in Barrack Street.

In 1509, James 1 granted Wexford a charter which formed the groundwork for municipal autonomy, allowing the Burgesses to remain in office for life, with the power to control markets, fairs and all money matters in relation to the town.

The next charter was issued by James 11 and for the first time, mentioned the positions of Town Clerk and Alderman.

This body was dissolved in 1840 when the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act was introduced.

The wearing of the Mayor's chain of office began in 1853, with each new mayor adding a link to the chain with his name and year of office engraved on it.

Wexford Corporation bought three silver maces in 1848 and they are still used on ceremonial occasions.

Over the years, the system changed - burgesses became councillors with a representative role and the Mayor took on a ceremonial position in the town.

Cllr. Reck who has twice served as Mayor, believes Phil Hogan's plan will eradicate Wexford's proud history with the stroke of a pen.

' The position of Mayor as we know it is gone. We're just getting the spin now,' he said.

Cllr. Reck said he was 'shocked and saddened' by last week's announcement.

'Would you go to England and get rid of the changing of the guard. No you wouldn't.'

He said the Mayoralty lends Wexford a special historical prestige which is beneficial to tourism.

'Wexford is a cosmopolitan town with an international reputation and the Mayoralty is respected worldwide.'

'All that history and tradition will die,' said Cllr. Reck.

He wonders what will happen to ceremonial events such as the Freedom of the Borough which boxing coach Billy Walsh is due to receive, or Barry Day and civic receptions.

Cllr. Reck who has already announced that he will retire at the next local elections, said people like the late Dick Corish who served as Mayor of Wexford with distinction for 25 years, would ' turn in their graves' at this development.

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