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Teynham News Magazine
Honorary Freeman of the Parish
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Mrs Chris McIlroy has been honoured for her commitment to Teynham by being made an Honorary Freeman of the Parish. She served as a hard-working and dedicated Clerk to Teynham Parish Council for nearly 40 years before retiring in 2015. She is the second person to be honoured with such an award, following the presentation to long-serving Parish Councillor Walter Lewis a year ago. Mrs McIlroy was presented with a certificate to mark the honour in front of Teynham Parish Councillors and guests by Parish Council chairman Brian Sharman.
Retirement of Chris McIlroy
Clerk to Teynham Parish Council - 1977 to 2015
A surprise presentation marked Mrs Chris McIlroy’s final day as Clerk of Teynham Parish Council – after more than 38 years in the job! MP Gordon Henderson, borough councillors and parish councillors were joined by friends outside her house in Teynham to present her with a huge bouquet of flowers and a citation from the House of Commons.
Chairman of the Parish Council, Brian Sharman, thanked Mrs McIlroy for her service, commitment and loyalty. Mrs McIlroy, who is being replaced as Clerk by Mrs Hayley Steel, (left in the photograph) said she was looking forward to retirement but will miss a job which she has thoroughly enjoyed doing.
A week after Mrs Chris McIlroy retired as Teynham Parish Clerk, having served 38 years in the job, she went back to work. It was only for one night but such is her loyalty and dedication she readily stood in as Clerk at a Parish Council meeting because her replacement was on a pre-arranged holiday.
None of the Parish Councillors have ever known what it’s like to attend a meeting without Mrs McIlroy, shorthand pencil at the ready along with an encyclopaedic knowledge of everything that goes on in Teynham, including Conyer.
The day in the 1970s that Chris, along with then new husband Jack, moved to Teynham was a lucky one for the community she went on to serve with such distinction and for such a long time. The couple lived and worked in London but couldn’t afford the sort of house they wanted there. They’d read about a new estate in Teynham, but on their first visit by car had to stop in Sittingbourne and ask a policeman how to get here. “Tainham” she called it but the policeman corrected her pronunciation and directed her to Honeyball Walk. And that’s where the McIlroys have lived ever since.
For a while she commuted back to London, leaving at 6.30am and arriving home after 7.00pm. She found a job nearer home as a secretary at Marley Floors, and then took on her first community role when she was invited to be the secretary of Teynham and Lynsted Playing Fields Management Committee. She did so well at that an offer to become Clerk to Teynham Parish Council soon followed, though the job back in 1977 was nothing like as hectic as it’s become today.
She remembers: “I was told it would be a couple of letters a week and the odd meeting. Bill Hook was the first Chairman when I took over. He worked at the chemists in London Road and I only knew him as looking very stern at the pharmacy window, so I was a little bit apprehensive. But I couldn’t have met anyone nicer, he was lovely and took me under his wing, and was very protective. He and his wife were a lovely couple.”
Chris was also Chairman of the Village Hall Fund-Raising Committee, a hard task which eventually earned her an invitation to a Buckingham Palace garden party. “It was a marvellous day,” she said. “We parked our old Rover in The Mall. It was special being so close to The Queen, who had a wonderful smile, but the biggest cheer of the day came when The Queen Mother came out into the garden.”
The role of Parish Clerk gradually expanded, with responsibility for The Meadow and a Teynham newsletter added to the allotments, playing field and streetlights. Then came concessionary bus passes to organise as Teynham became the first parish to introduce them before Swale Council eventually took over the administration. The Frognal Gardens car park became another Teynham responsibility and the Community Hall another, when it was purchased in 2007.
Chris had been struggling to cope with two part time jobs, and in 2002 accepted an official contract to work 30 hours a week for Teynham Parish Council. And she continued in that role until her retirement at the end of July. She said: “I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been lovely getting out and about and meeting so many people and chatting to them but the workload became so much latterly that I found myself ‘trapped’ in front of a computer too much. I don’t want to single out individuals but I really enjoyed working with John Brown, Ron Boorman, Graham Winzar, Jackie Baldock, who was the only woman Parish Council Chairman I worked with, and Barbara Holton. A mention must be given to Ernie Spears and Walter Lewis who served on the Council almost as long as me, and, of course, the current Chairman, Brian Sharman, who I think has served consecutively as Chairman for the longest period in current years. Many parish councillors throughout my time have been very strong, committed and enthusiastic, and keen to put a lot of work in despite the fact it can be a thankless task.”
And her most vivid memories from the many years in the job? “The biggest tragedy was the Zeebrugge ferry disaster, and the foot-and-mouth outbreak was extremely worrying with parish councils requested to put up notices announcing certain paths were closed and having to ensure they remained in situ. One of my favourite Parish Council achievements was after being told I had to give a speech at a public inquiry into whether the track known as the Tram to Conyer could be adopted as an official footpath. The support from parishioners at the inquiry was marvellous but I was very nervous speaking in front of the inspector and barristers. I was delighted that as I sat down I received a round of applause and when it was announced some three months or so after the Inquiry that we had won I was absolutely thrilled. Apart from that it’s been rewarding when the Hall Committee secured various grants to improve the Community Hall, while the most bizarre event in my time was when the Jubilee Pump got hit by a ‘flying’ car!”
At a surprise presentation on her final day in the job, Mrs McIlroy was presented with a huge bouquet of flowers by the Chairman of Teynham Parish Council, Brian Sharman, who publicly thanked her for her long service, commitment and loyalty. A certificate of appreciation from the House of Commons, was presented by Gordon Henderson MP.
Chris, who has a daughter and two grandchildren, has been replaced as Parish Clerk and Responsible Financial Officer by Mrs Hayley Steel.
Interviewed by Cllr. Tony Rickson