St Helens salutes its ambassadors

Saints chairman Eamonn McManus with his family after being made a Freeman of the Borough.
Saints chairman Eamonn McManus with his family after being made a Freeman of the Borough.

HEAVY rain couldn’t dampen one of the most moving ceremonies to take place in St Helens in recent years.

Last Wednesday (April 18) every single St Helens serviceman and woman – both past and present – was awarded Freedom of the Borough status.

Military freedom of the borough march at St Helens Victoria Square.

Military freedom of the borough march at St Helens Victoria Square.

Poignantly, Guardsman Christopher Davies’ mother and daughter were also on hand to collect one of the Freedom of the Borough scrolls, on behalf of the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.

The fallen soldier’s mother, Catherine, and daughter, Lucy, collected the scroll from Mayor of St Helens Tom Hargreaves during a service at St Helens Parish Church.

Guardsman Davies’s girlfriend, Emma Johnson, was also among the hundreds in attendance.

Then, the following day, Saints chairman Eamonn McManus was among a select group of others to also be awarded Freedom of the Borough status.

He was joined by fellow businessmen Bill Ainscough and Chris and David Baybutt, Deputy Lieutenant of Merseyside Kirsty Pilkington, chair of Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action Jean Mulford, and Willowbrook Hospice.

Prior to last Wednesday’s ceremony, a procession was led through the heart of St Helens town centre by flag-waving standard bearers from 19 different military regiments and associations.

During an hour-long service, which was lit up by a pitch-perfect performance from tuneful Queen’s Park CE Primary School singers, local politicians paid tribute to the bravery of the town’s servicemen and women.

Council leader Marie Rimmer, who spared special mentions for Guardsman Davies and injured soldier Corporal Andy Reid, said: “We owe a lasting debt of gratitude to all those who have served in the armed forces to make this world a better place to live in and to give us our freedom.

“There are so many servicemen and women in this town who have bravely served their country in the past – and many young people continue to serve today in Afghanistan.

“We should never forget the constant anxiety experienced by the families left at home during times of conflict – and especially those who suffer the ultimate pain of losing a son, a daughter, a father or a mother in conflict.

“This is our way of saying thank you to every one of you.”

Local Lib Dem leader Brian Spencer said: “Some people question whether we should be involved in conflicts around the world but what is never questioned, and should never be questioned, is the dedication, loyalty and bravery of those who serve our armed forces.”

And local Tory leader Wally Ashcroft said: “What more moving service do we have than the Remembrance Service every November which gets bigger and bigger every year. It’s a testimony of the gratitude the people of St Helens feel towards our armed forces.”

l Facing page: Top: Mayor of St Helens Tom Hargreaves presents a Freedom of the Borough scroll to Guardsman Christopher Davies’ mother and daughter; Middle: Saints chairman Eamonn McManus with his family after being made a Freeman of the Borough; Right: Military freedom of the borough march at St Helens Victoria Square.