When Councillor Tom Murray, Lord Mayor of Leeds and The Lady Mayoress, Mrs Edna Murray welcomed some 40 club members and their partners to a cup of tea in The Ark Royal Room at the Civic Hall he was fulfilling a promise made in October last when he and Mrs Murray were honoured guests at our Charter Dinner.
As the blue Civic Trust plaque tells us, the Civic Hall itself was erected 1930-33 by the unemployed building workers of Leeds. Its accommodation includes Lord Mayor’s ceremonial rooms, Council Chamber, committee rooms and offices. It was built to serve the ever-expanding municipal functions and duties of Leeds City Council.
It was a great tour, enriched by the informative and often very funny comments by Tom and Edna. Fist he explained what the Lord Mayor is and does and gave us heartening news of the work done by LOFFTY, the Lord Mayor’s charity this year that provides support and activities for the city’s less privileged children. Typical of our present Lord Mayor whose initiative ‘Partnerships in Learning’ helps jobless youths to gain the skills and aptitudes that will gain them employment. Both he and his wife were teachers for many years and Mrs. Murray’s unstoppable anecdotes about the history of the place enriched the trip enormously.
We saw the Council Chamber with its light oak furnishing. Photographs were taken and The Sergeant at Mace explained the workings of the Council over which the Lord Mayor presides, often closing the meeting at 8.00 pm. The Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress wore regalia but their interest and friendliness were entirely informal: we were there as friends and fellow citizens of Leeds with an interest in the history of the building and workings of the Council.
The mace must be in position for the Council to be in session and is placed before the Lord Mayor who chairs the meeting.
We saw the present mace among the City’s regalia displayed in cabinets on the landing at the head of the stairs. Among more spectacular and valuable items were two plates given by Leeds Rotary Club and Morley Rotary Club.
Then down to the galleries housing the portraits of all the mayors and lord mayors, a fascinating progression from formal paintings in oils to later photographs, some using photomontage or multiple images. An interesting detail was the clip added to the regalia when the first lady became Lord Mayor and was unable to support the heavy plaque from the top of her waistcoat!
Our thanks are due to our generous hosts, the two Sergeants at Mace who presented much of the formal tour and to Drew Dodds who arranged the visit.