Robert Arckless honoured with MBE
The Ambler congratulates one of our former County Councillors, Robert Arckless on being awarded an MBE. (A member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire; an order of chivalry)rewarding, in Robert’s case, contributions to public service. This was an extra special occasion as it was the centenary of its conception by King George V in 1917.
Robert heard he had been given the award in December 2016, but had to keep it quiet until the New Year’s Honours List was officially published on December 30.
At that point his partner, Mike Brooks, posted the news on Facebook and the response was ‘enormous.’
There were stacks of comments and one he particularly remembers was from Coral Turnbull, his history teacher from Amble Modern School, who said ‘This is a great acheivement”.
On his trip to London Robert said: “It was more practical to make a weekend of the outing.” So they travelled by train on Thursday May 18.
Dame Vera Baird
That evening they enjoyed a party at Vera Baird’s London home. Vera, Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria, and a longstanding friend, was to receive the most senior honour and become a Dame in recognition of her services to the cause of women and equality, at the same ceremony.
The investiture took place on the Friday amid tight security at the Palace: there were armed police and a bag search, as memories of the Westminster terror attack were still raw. Tributes to the victims were still apparent on Westminster Bridge.
On arrival at the palace they were ushered into the rehearsal room, divided into groups and the protocol was explained. On this occasion there were 94 people being honoured and Prince Charles was awarding the medals. Robert had chosen to use a wheelchair for the ceremony so he could feel relaxed during the proceedings, and not worry about his mobility. He was given his very own footman to push his chair. Robert says “Everyone was very helpful. It was a great experience, steeped in tradition. The procedure went like a well-oiled machine”
On entering the ceremony room Robert was impressed by the opulence, and the works of art on the walls, pictures that aren’t on view to the general public. “In one respect, it’s surreal. It’s steeped in tradition and as someone who loves history, I enjoyed all that. The chandelier was about as big as our bungalow!” Music was provided by the Countess of Wessex Orchestra, playing an arrangement of Coldplay’s Viva La Vida.
Prince Charles was standing on a dais to make the presentation, but as Robert was in his wheelchair he stepped down to speak with him. They talked about the Prince’s visit to Amble, which Charles remembered and they talked of the fishing fleet and lobsters. “It was an emotional experience, and I thought about my Mum, who would have been very proud.”
The ceremony lasted about one and a half hours in all, and then there was time for the official photographs. Robert particularly values a photograph of himself and Vera with Gordon Adams, one of Vera’s guests and former MEP for this region who is a mutual friend, with their guests. He is awaiting the arrival of a personalised DVD of the ceremony. He intends to put all the mementoes into an album as a souvenir of the occasion.
Saturday was a rest day, but on the Sunday they visited St. Paul’s Cathedral. “The cathedral was amazing. It has a chapel dedicated to the Order of the British Empire in the crypt.” Next was the National Portrait Gallery, in particular the Tudor Gallery. Robert said “I was familiar with many of the images, but to see them face to face was amazing.” Here he could indulge his interest in art and history. Afterwards he was surprised to find no pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
Robert has many proud moments during his 34 years as councillor. In 1983, learning of his election, he called on Nellie Arkle to give her the good news. Nellie and Lena Gilgannon were among the many people who supported him in those early years. He was elected when only 25, one of the youngest councillors. He remembers his very first surgery, meeting a lady who promptly burst into tears of frustration over her circumstances. “They don’t give you a manual in this job, but I am pleased to say I was able to help her” he said.
He has always had a passion for education: he went to school in Amble and as councillor has served as governor on several boards. He has had a close involvement with all our schools in his time.
Securing the future of Amble Library made him very proud. This was a protracted project lasting at least five years as he had to deal with the ever changing officers within the local authority, but his persistence paid off. “The fact that the library is now housed in the Mechanics Institute building carries on the tradition of learning in the town. It is true to the character of the building.”
He was there at the setting up of the Shorebase Trust and is proud to say, “After all the trials and tribulations they are still flourishing and now in a smart new building.”
He was involved with the refurbishment of the pier and the opening by Jackie Charlton, the town square and disabled access for Hauxley Village Hall.
Robert stood down for health reasons; his increasingly limited mobility meant he could not do the job the way he wanted to, “I don’t want to become one of those people who stay too long,” he said. He intends to do less and enjoy more leisure time, indulge his passion for history and books. “But you can’t just switch off,” he said “I’ll be supporting Terry [Clark] where I can.” He will continue his links with education as he continues to serve as governor on the board of Northumberland College, where he also studied. He may even try some distance learning, perhaps an MA.
In conclusion Robert said, “It was fantastic to be nominated. However I was only able to do all the things that I have done because I have been so lucky in the people that have worked with me. Politics is about people. It was a marvellous occasion and a great way to round off my official life.”
We wish him luck in his new role and thank him for the many valuable contributions he has made to this community.