We are Rotherham

I hope that you had a good half term week – if you did manage to get some time for yourself. As I wrote prior to the break, at least we would’ve all had that four-day weekend to make the most of. Whether you were partying in a very Jubilee way or not, I’m sure you used the time to rest up and rejuvenate, to some degree.

And I hope that the return to school / college has been relatively smooth for you. I know that in all three of our institutions there have been some tweaks to the routines and the continuation of the public examinations remains challenging. It seems to me that, as always, we continue to face all those differing challenges head on. The great thing, at this time of year, is that we have a pretty good chance of having decent weather over the week, which can lift the spirits.

I do take the opportunity every year, around the start of November, to comment upon and refer to our national remembrance events. That is right and proper. But, I’d like to take the opportunity today just to reflect on a very moving ceremony, led and conducted by Joel at TRC. Today marks the 40th anniversary of the death of Sergeant Ian MacKay. Sergeant MacKay grew up as a member of our community and was a TRC student in his youth. He followed his ambitions and joined the British Army. He served in Germany (West Germany as it was then) and Northern Ireland. However, it was the Falklands conflict which impacted most significantly on Sergeant MacKay. As a sergeant of a platoon charged with neutralising a machine gun compound, during the conflict, Sergeant MacKay sadly lost his life. His bravery, his courage and his sacrifice resulted in him receiving the Victoria Cross – the British Army‘s highest award and accolade. (There have been only 14 Victoria Crosses awarded since the Second World War).

Thank you to the staff at Thomas Rotherham College for participating in the service, thank you to Fraser for laying a wreath on behalf of the college, in his uniform, and thank you to Joel for instigating and managing the event with solemnity and due reverence.

Walking back from the college to Oakwood High School got me thinking about the importance of one’s personal history and the communities from which we are forged.

Rotherham has a population of over a quarter of a million people and is one of the oldest towns in this area – being able to trace its history back over 1000 years. In this town and across this county we have a long and proud history of welcoming people. We welcome people, whomever they are, whatever their backgrounds, whatever their culture, whatever their religious beliefs or otherwise. We are a town with a well-deserved reputation for acceptance, tolerance and understanding. We celebrate our similarities and our differences. It is our belief that by sharing our culture and our heritage that we can encourage all to contribute something to our communities. We are far more than an urban town centre. Three quarters of our borough is open countryside; and in this borough, across this county, we are lucky to have some of the most beautiful scenery in the whole country.  We also have an amazing industrial heritage and evidence of this can be seen throughout the town.

In the present, we have our football team; The Millers, who have recently been promoted to the Championship. We have our rugby team, The Titans. And many individuals who represent the country in a whole range of sports and arts.

Rotherham is a wonderful town; its centre has a flourishing market, a thoroughly transformed high street and a wonderful park just a few minutes’ walk away. I would encourage you to enjoy discovering the libraries, the museums, the historic churches, Wentworth Woodhouse, the theatre, the parks, and other great facilities in Rotherham.

We should be very proud of where we live and where we work. Sometimes the area and the people get something of a kicking; especially in the national media. Many of us know that rebuilding the reputation of this town and the people of this town will take time. Most of us know that the people that we interact with do have those personal attributes that would set them aside in any community. We should remember that in our work and we should remember that in our communities. We can be proud of what we do in respect of education and we can be proud of our children and young people. They will be the generation which inherits all that is positive about Rotherham or all that is perceived to be negative.

We have a lot to be proud of and occasionally, just occasionally, we should recognise and advertise that.

 ‘This world of ours… must avoid becoming a community of dreadful fear and hate, and be, instead, a proud confederation of mutual trust and respect.’ Dwight D. Eisenhower

And so, it’s a weekly message about pride. We are proud of our town and our community and, although with great sadness for the loss, we are proud of Sergeant Ian MacKay; one of our community, who died 40 years ago in a conflict that was not of his making.

Whatever you are doing this weekend I hope you can enjoy. And if it’s in Rotherham make the most of what this borough, this town, has to offer.