Special service to honour a long-running friendship

Chairman of Shilbottle Parish Council, Tommy Scott; Jean Raynal of H�ry Amicale;  Anne Armstrong, chairman of the Shilbottle Amicale;  Revd Martin Gillham, Vicar of St James, Shilbottle, with the plaques and rose trees in the Memorial Garden
Chairman of Shilbottle Parish Council, Tommy Scott; Jean Raynal of H�ry Amicale; Anne Armstrong, chairman of the Shilbottle Amicale; Revd Martin Gillham, Vicar of St James, Shilbottle, with the plaques and rose trees in the Memorial Garden

A moving ceremony was held in Shilbottle on Sunday to honour the long-running friendship between the village and its French counterpart.

The service, staged in the Memorial Garden, celebrated the 50th anniversary of the signing of Friendship between Shilbottle and Héry.

It also paid tribute to the lifelong commitment of the late June Raynal, who was co-founder of the Shilbottle Héry Amicale, which began in 1963.

Two plaques were unveiled during a short service of dedication, led by Rev Martin Gillham, Vicar of St James, Shilbottle.

Those attending included representatives of the Amicale from both Shilbottle and Héry, Shilbottle parish councillors and members of the families involved in founding the twinning.

Coun Tommy Scott, chairman of the parish council, and June’s widower Jean, of the Héry Amicale, unveiled the plaques and planted two rose trees, which were dedicated to June and to friends past and present on both sides of the Channel.

Anne Armstrong, chairman of the Shilbottle Amicale, said: “We thank June, who was such an inspiration, and all those who helped to create and foster the wonderful friendship association that we still enjoy and celebrate.”

Coun Scott captured the feelings of all present when he said that he hoped the roses would flourish in the same way as the 52-year friendship between the two villages.

He added: “We hope this friendship will continue for many years to come.”

With French visitors in Shilbottle, the 52nd Exchange is underway, with a number of celebratory events and excursions.

It was June who first had the idea of creating ‘a kind of twinning’ between the two villages she knew very well, Shilbottle and Héry, which is close to Auxerre.

Northumberland girl June studied French at university, went to work in France, met and married a Frenchman – Jean – and finally settled down in Héry. June and Jean were sent to Shilbottle by the Mayor of Héry to negotiate a link.

The first group of French visitors were hosted by Shilbottle folk in 1964. Then, in 1965, a group from Shilbottle made a return visit to Héry and saw the signing of the Acte de Jumelage or Treaty of Friendship.