Once again, we took a chance and had our speaker in the first half of the meeting with the AGM following in the second half. This has always been a bit of a gamble as one fears losing some of the audience during refreshments. It says a lot for the loyalty and interest of our members that we still had a good crowd for the vital AGM.
Ian Young, the Emergency Co-ordinator of the Civil Defence gave us an excellent, illustrated presentation. Apparently, this organisation has been disbanded in the UK but following the succession of floods in the Somerset Levels and elsewhere, serious thought is being given to reforming this force. Given the isolation of our Island, we cannot call in neighbouring fire fighters, troops, police or any other large force at a moment’s notice, so wisely, our Civil Defence remains, carefully linked in with other organisations.
Even voluntary organisations such as St John’s Ambulance, Red Cross, Mines Rescue, coastguards and search dogs are co-ordinated as required. Regular training sessions are an important element in maintaining skills and preparedness.
We viewed photographs of coastal flooding from 1925 to the present day. We all remember boats in Parliament Street, Ramsey and elsewhere. Gales bringing down trees on roads and in glens all require a swift response and usually in very difficult conditions.
Fires sweeping across tracts of land such as the fairly recent blaze at Bradda Head, gas leaks, explosions, release of fumes or radiation all require emergency help. If people are evacuated, safe centres must be on stand-by for substantial numbers of people.
The Civil Defence is fully involved in the government’s emergency planning. This might well include the grisly but necessary recovery and identification of bodies and the provision of temporary morgues. These need to be accompanied by medical and counselling staff together with emergency accommodation for displaced, evacuated people.
Useful assistance is given to sporting events such as distance running and cycling. This provides additional value as in-service training. Another use of the force’s skill was in providing equipment and expertise in providing a dry dock for The Peggy, as it was carefully removed from the Nautical Museum for conservation.
We were all immensely grateful for the Isle of Man Civil Defence and impressed by the range and quality of their work. It was a great pleasure to thank not just Ian for his talk but the whole organisation that keeps us all safe.
Following a refreshment break we launched into our 26th AGM. Fortunately, Elli, our secretary, retiring by rotation, was re-elected. Leonard felt that it was time for him to retire as treasurer The Trust thanks him most warmly for his years of service. To our intense relief, Ray Harmer, our membership secretary readily offered to fill this essential post, as well. Given that Ray is also Chairman of Peel Town Commissioners, this is especially appreciated. A very big thank- you!
I have completed yet another two-year term as Chairman, my third! Our constitution limits the term of a chairman to two years, so my successor, according to the rules, will be elected at our next committee meeting. My thanks to all, not just our members, for the wonderful support and guidance I’ve been given over so many, many years.
The main topic from the members, this year, was concern over the regeneration plans for Peel. How to smarten us up without destroying our sense of age and stages of development over the centuries is a real conundrum. We must work to maintain Peel’s individuality. Do we want everywhere to look like Parliament Square, Ramsey or the revamped Laxey Tram Station? We fought unsuccessfully to save the original kerbstones in Atholl Street. Will we really have to travel to the Lake District or the Cotswolds to enjoy what has been heedlessly thrown away, here?
Such was the strength of feeling on a number of planning issues, I had to virtually guillotine the meeting at gone 10.00 pm! Let me hasten to add, that in no way, were people being ‘anti’ for the sake of it. We must all be grateful that so many people love dear old Peel and also value the efforts being made to inject fresh vigour, here and there. Enhancing the experience that is Peel without overlaying her with modernity is certainly a challenge!
Our next meeting is on Wednesday, 18th March at 7.30pm in the Centenary Centre. Sue Woolley is going to exploit her retirement from the press with details of, ‘phone hacking scandals and cash for information intrigues!’