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Tuesday, 29 January 2013
Girls and boys from Bolton School have enjoyed a visit from the High Sheriff of Greater Manchester. There was a large lunchtime gathering in the Boys’ Division Great Hall as historians, school academic societies and interested parties of all ages assembled to hear George Almond CBE, the current presiding Sheriff, relate a history of the position and explain his role in today’s world.
The position of High Sheriff dates back over 1,000 years to Saxon times when the presiding King appointed “Shire Reeves” in an attempt to quell disorder throughout the shires or counties. The term Shire Reeve later conflated to the word Sheriff. Their first and foremost job was to keep order and many had wide powers and raised their own armies. These armies would, in turn, serve the King when needed. The Sheriff also collected local taxes which were paid into the national exchequer.
Over the last two centuries many of their duties have passed over to local police forces, magistrates and courts. The position lasts for one year only and is open to anyone who has a wide knowledge and understanding of the county, including its social problems. The appointment is made by the Queen and is done through a traditional ceremony called “Pricking the Lites” which dates back to the time of Queen Elizabeth I when she allegedly chose the first sheriffs by pricking a parchment with a bodkin.
Today, there are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales and whilst the role has evolved over time, supporting the Crown and the Judiciary remain central elements of the position. In addition, High Sheriffs work closely with the Police and crime prevention agencies to develop and promote crime reduction initiatives, especially amongst young people. They also assist numerous local charities and faith groups within the community.
The High Sheriff said: “Sixty to 70% of my time has been with the police and I have been spent long periods working hard at the Young Offenders’ Institution at Hindley. Much of my work has been with young people, many of whom cannot read or write and who quite literally may have never visited the countryside or have an understanding of where our food comes from. It is important to equip these people with vocational skills, be it in music or in a trade such as building. I have also been doing a lot of work with charities such as Barnardo’s.”
The presentation ended with pupils posing a variety of intelligent questions.
Prior to his talk, the High Sheriff had met the Headmaster and been given a tour of the campus by a Sixth Form student – grounds that he was familiar with as his son had attended Bolton School fifteen years ago.
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