A new High Sheriff rides into town: meet John Abram
PUBLISHED: 02:35 26 March 2012 | UPDATED: 21:13 20 February 2013
Shropshire's High Sheriff is officially responsible for maintaining law and order across Shropshire on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. This month the incumbent High Sheriff, Richard Burbidge, makes way for John Abram
Shropshires High Sheriff is officially responsible for maintaining law and order across Shropshire on behalf of Her Majesty the Queen. It is a role steeped in history and duty. This month the incumbent High Sheriff, Richard Burbidge, makes way for John Abram. Our Society Correspondent Howard Franklin met both men to reflect on the year past and look ahead to an exciting year...
It is a role dating back to Anglo Saxon times, when peasants who worked on the land elected a community leader to represent them. As time passed, the role became more significant and the Shire Reeves, as they were then called, became monarchical appointments.
The incumbent High Sheriff, Richard Burbidge, officially steps down this month when his successor John Abram is installed at a ceremony steeped in tradition and splendour.
John, like Richard before him, spent two years in nomination after being identified by a county selection committee including the Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire, a judge and past and present High Sheriffs. His name was then put forward to the Privy Council and, during March, the official appointment followed. This part of the procedure, like so much surrounding the position, is wonderfully traditional. The Queen is presented with a list of names for the counties of England on a parchment scroll; she then pricks a hole by each of the selected names using a ceremonial bodkin. The selected names then receive a Warrant from the Privy Council to confirm the official appointment.
Outgoing High Sheriff Richard has presided over an extremely eventful year. His most memorable moments have included the royal visits of HRH Princess Alexandra and HRH Prince Richard, Duke of Gloucester, to the county.
He has used his position to support a range of charities and causes. Topping his personal list of achievements has been his support for the Youth Support Service, based in Wellington, which works with young offenders. Its a vital service provided by a team of counsellors who are extremely dedicated and patient.
He added: It has been very humbling to witness the work being carried out across the voluntary sector in Shropshire; people who give so much of their time to help others.
During his year Richard has especially highlighted the wonderful work carried out at Severn Hospice, and he chose it as his charity for the year.
Born in Coventry, Richard attended Shrewsbury School and, later, Trinity College Cambridge, before taking over the family business, originally founded by his great great grandfather in 1867. Previously a timber company, it then specialised in making croquet and cricket bats. Richard now chairs Richard Burbidge Ltd based in Oswestry while his brother David holds a similar post at the Coventry arm of the business.
Richard has a gentle demeanor and a sparkling glint in his eyes, which immediately puts people at their ease even when he is dressed in all the splendour of Court dress. He has been a very human face of the Shrievality in Shropshire, proving a good listener and generous of spirit.
On his arm throughout his year has been his wife Patricia, always elegantly attired with a love of colour and an easy manner, kindness and genuine interest in everyone she has encountered. Together they have attended literally hundreds of events, often several in the same day and sometimes in nightmarish weather conditions. Their navigation skills and knowledge of remote villages has greatly improved as the year has progressed, joked Richard.
Richard and Patricia have three children, Sophie, 44, Daniel, 40, and Joshua, 33. They also have three adorable grandchildren, Milly, Sam and Zac. Family holidays often involve sailing in the Caribbean, where Richard participates in yacht racing to a high standard. The couple also enjoy tennis and theatre visits; both are patrons of Garsington Opera and the Globe Theatre in London. Their passion for the performing arts is demonstrated by the fact they have created their very own theatre, The Haystack, in the grounds of their beautiful Georgian home Ford House.
Richards successor, John, comes from a military background. His father was a regular soldier in the Army and his mother a weaver when they moved from their home in Nelson, Lancashire, to Shawbury following the decline of the textile industries in the north west.
John was educated at Priory Boys Grammar School and later undertook an apprenticeship with the General Post Office in telecommunications. He spent his working life with the GPO, becoming part of the telephone planning management team for the county. He married Christine Moore in 1967 in Shrewsbury and they have two sons, Phillip and Steven, both married. There are four Abram grandchildren; Tom, Lily, Sam and Eve, who are all delighted at their grandfathers new role.
John, of Oswestry, is actively involved in the Scout movement; he is President of Shropshire Borders Scouting District and a Board Member of the Executive of Shropshire County Scouts. He is also Secretary of Shropshire Royal Signals Association and has been a magistrate in the county since 1986, serving as chairman of the Shrewsbury and North Shropshire Bench and also Chairman of West Mercia Magistrates Courts Committee, making him an ideal person to take up the law and order mantle for Shropshire.
John has decided not to nominate a single charity but to instead support the voluntary sector generally, especially organisations working with young people.
In recognition of his 26 years service with the Territorial Army, John has opted to wear military dress uniform for his official duties - an appropriate choice for an officer and a gentleman.
He is, he says, intending to be a modern High Sheriff and to get involved with as many of the countys lesser known charitable groups as he can. He intends to get off the starting blocks immediately and visit as many voluntary groups and associations as he can to offer encouragement, support and a suitably high profile. He and Margaret are also planning a Jamboree, to borrow a scouting term, over the summer.
Then of course there is the little matter of the impending visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Shropshire in July to look forward to...