Comberton turns out en masse as town crier launches Platinum Jubilee celebrations
Rex Webb, Comberton’s town crier, opened the four days of festivities for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee by reading a proclamation in honour of Her Majesty – not bad for someone whose main qualification was that he “had a red coat”.
Comberton residents turned out en masse to welcome the crier – the news reader of the pre-television age, for the benefit of younger readers – along with local MP Anthony Browne, who told the throng gathered on the village green that it was “fabulous to be here” and noted the busy schedule.
Rex’s proclamation read:
“Today in our nation and throughout the Commonwealth, we are celebrating our glorious Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Elizabeth the second is her name, our most beloved sovereign and head of the Commonwealth for 70 years…
“How apt that this should be the platinum anniversary of her ascension – platinum, that most noble of metals, more precious even than gold. And so it is in honour of this unique occasion that beacons will be lit this evening throughout the United Kingdom, the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man and UK overseas territories, and the capital cities of the Commonwealth.
“Let it be known, in proclamation, this tribute to Her Majesty the Queen, on her Platinum Jubilee, that we are one nation and one Commonwealth.
“God save the Queen!”
How Comberton cheered, causing MP Anthony Browne to remark that “all villages need a town crier like Rex”.
The man himself was more modest.
“I was asked to read the proclamation,” Rex told the Cambridge Independent, adding: “It was a bit of a surprise, but they said ‘you’ve got a red coat’, so….”
“It’s fabulous to be here,” added the South Cambs MP. “The fact that there are so many events taking place here and across the region shows how much the Queen is respected and loved – there really is an amazing programme going on.
“I’ve got another event – a street party – to go to this afternoon, then five more events tomorrow and five on Saturday. And I have to judge Comberton’s poster competition, best decorated street competition and best decorated house competition.”
Competition is tight, with houses around the village apparently attempting to outdo each other on the size and number of flags on display. They included quite a few St George’s flags, which of course is the English component of the Union Jack and therefore tends to wipe out the part played by the three other nations that make up the UK – and the entire Commonwealth.
I ask one visitor from Cambridge, Tim Rice, whether he would be flying a Union Jack or a St George’s flag.
“I’m a firm believer that it should be the Cambridge University flag,” he said, thereby elegantly sidestepping the culture war grenade I had cunningly laid in his path. And would Tim be busy in the next couple of days?
“Yes I’ve got some vegetables to dig this afternoon and tomorrow a friend is getting married.”
Tim Scott, who chairs Comberton Parish Council, says that “the village has put a lot of effort in” to make the celebrations work.
He added: “Jan, from the parish council, had a lot of fun putting the next four days together.”
Jan Martin, who is Comberton Parish Council’s vice-chair, noted: “The planning started last October. The events include this proclamation, the beacon lighting this evening, tomorrow there’s yoga, and a T20 for the cricket team versus football team. On Saturday at the recreation ground there’s a classic car show, lots of stalls from the churches, PTAs, arts and craft, a tombola, a nursery doing a bouncy castle, a wine club doing a wine tasting, a roll-up-bowl-up on the law from the bowls club… it starts at 11am and goes on to 10pm. It finishes with a barefoot disco, and the Chris Fox band are playing.
“Sunday will be lots of street parties. I’m aware of seven or eight in Comberton, but there’s probably more…”
“There’s basically four main roads in Comberton,” chips in Tim.
Comberton resident Sandra Hyde was chair of the Silver Jubilee committee in 1977, and points to the village sign on the green.
“That went up after the Silver Jubilee,” she said happily. “We sourced the history of the village to find out about the herring.”
“There’s a field in the village called Herringland, which as it happens I farm,” Tim says. “It dates back to however long ago when herring was brought in from Lowestoft, and the income from this field pai for the herring which was brought over in a barrel and distributed to villagers.”
“The other side of the sign is a post windmill which used to be near where the village college is now,” adds Sandra.
The next four days in Comberton is going to be very busy. Added to this is the poignancy of this incredibly long reign, and the realisation that there may not be another.
“It’s not impossible,” says Anthony Browne when I put this to him, displaying that peculiar mix of romanticism and stubbornness which has seen this country’s population weather many a crisis.
But that’s not something to fret about today. Today, we can only gasp with admiration at Comberton’s HR department, which audaciously promoted Father Christmas to a role which was literally tailor-made for him, and perhaps for all Father Christmases across the world… town crier to Her Majesty on the happy occasion of her Platinum Jubilee.
- Don’t miss full coverage of Platinum Jubilee events across the region in next week’s Cambridge Independent, on sale Wednesday.