Friday, 03 February 2017
The Junior Girls were delighted to welcome High Sheriff of Greater Manchester the Lady Smith of Leigh to a special morning assembly.
Lady Smith talked to pupils about what her role as High Sheriff involves. She explained that she and the Lord Lieutenant of Greater Manchester are the Queen’s two representatives in the county. At one time, the High Sheriff was asked to “keep the peace” and collect taxes on behalf of the monarch. Nowadays, the role involves looking after judges, particularly High Court Judges visiting Manchester from London, as well as the police, fire service, ambulance service, armed forces and volunteers, and communicating to these people that the Queen recognises and appreciates the important work they are doing.
To the girls’ excitement, Lady Smith showed off her sword, which is made of steel rather than gold or silver, and normally carried by a police cadet or her assistant on official occasions as she is a lady High Sheriff. She also explained that the High Sheriff’s crest features both pointed and blunt swords, to symbolise both justice and mercy.
On the subject of lady High Sheriffs, Lady Smith recalled that although the post has existed for hundreds of years, women were barred from it for a long time. The first lady High Sheriff of modern times was appointed in 1967: the same year that Lady Smith herself got engaged, so not only in her lifetime, but in her adult lifetime. However, Lady Smith also mentioned two women who held the post in historical times. They were Lady Anne Clifford, who inherited the title during the mid-1600s, and Dame Nicolla de la Haye who was appointed by King John in 1216 but was stripped of the post after his death.
Lady Smith also read out part of the Letters Patent from the Queen which appoint her High Sheriff. It was wonderful for the girls to hear the official language of the document.
She then opened the floor to questions, and the curious pupils certainly had plenty to ask! When asked about the hardest part of her job, Lady Smith said it had “all been such a pleasure”, but the beginning of her one year tenure as High Sheriff coincided with the centenary of the Battle of the Somme and so she attended many commemorations, which were superb but very emotional because of the enormous loss of life. The part she had enjoyed the most was again difficult to answer, but she mentioned two highlights: visiting the bridge of Britain’s newest warship in Liverpool, and meeting various charities and volunteers and seeing the work they do.
She was also asked about how someone is appointed the High Sheriff of a county, and explained part of the process, including some of the difficulties. The position lasts for one year, but the High Sheriff must pay for everything themselves, so not everyone can undertake the role. She further explained that High Sheriffs were historically appointed for just one year to prevent anyone from becoming too powerful, and this continues today.
During the question and answer session, the Junior Girls were thrilled to learn that Lady Smith was an Old Girl! She offered some fascinating anecdotes about her time as a Bolton School pupil.
Finally, Lady Smith presented the Junior Girls’ chess team with certificates and a trophy they had won the previous evening at a Bolton League match. Five of the six girls had also won medals.
Lady Smith also gave an address to the Senior Girls during her visit to Bolton School.
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