‘Musical chairs’ played at Chief Pleas Assembly Room
Saturday 2nd March 2013, 10:00AM GMT.
SARK played its own version of musical chairs on Wednesday in what was yet another historic day for the island.
It was nice to see the island flag flying on what seems to be a new flagpole at the refurbished Chief Pleas Assembly Room and Seneschal’s Court, although knowing Sark the pole will have had a previous function elsewhere and simply been recycled.
The building’s formal reopening was in fact an informal affair, with Seigneur Michael Beaumont explaining that there would be no ribbon-cutting because it was too cold to have people waiting outside for that to be done.
He congratulated those involved in the refurbishment and added that the island had a courtroom and legislative chamber of which it could be proud.
That was echoed by Seneschal Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman, who listed those involved in the work and added that it was a tribute to them, all of whom were Sark residents, that they had overcome the problems they had encountered.
The first formal function after the opening was the swearing-in of Deputy Seneschal Ewan de Carteret. It’s so nice to see offices deservedly held by Sark people and particularly so when they have to apply rather than inherit or simply be appointed to them. And that ended the first round of musical chairs.
A few minutes later, the room was transformed from the Seneschal’s Court into the Chief Pleas’ legislative chamber as 26 of the 27 conseillers took their seats for the first time on their new benches to elect the first president of the Assembly.
There was only one nomination – that of former Seneschal Reg Guille – and so no need for the secret ballot required in a contested election. There was an attempt by Conseiller Andrew Prevel to call for an appel nominal (named vote), but members – wisely, in my view – unanimously binned that in favour of a simple show of hands.
The musical chairs then continued as that sitting closed only for the Seneschal’s Court to convene to swear in the new president of Chief Pleas. That made it three times in about 20 minutes that Greffier Trevor Hamon had recited the Lord’s Prayer. What with events going on in Rome at present, it surprised me a little that there was no sign of white smoke coming from the building as I made my way to the Island Hall.
There was a good crowd there to hear Michael Beaumont singing the praises of the former seneschal the island was honouring. He referred to Lt-Col Guille’s distinguished military career and said that on the former soldier’s return to Sark he became a member of Chief Pleas and then, in 2000, seneschal.
The seigneur said that it would be for his work as president of the legislature that Reg Guille would be remembered, describing him as an outstanding chairman ‘at a time when politics in Sark were exceptionally difficult’.
‘He ensured that the will of the people of Sark ultimately prevailed,’ said the seigneur.
The watercolour Reg was presented with was particularly appropriate. Not only was it painted by his niece Rosanne, but the scene it depicted – the enclosed rockpools at the Eperquerie landing on the island’s north-east coast – is one close to the hearts of Reg and his siblings George, Peter and Elsie, as the pools were built by their father George in the late 1940s.
‘I suspect it was to provide somewhere safe for us to swim,’ said Reg.
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