(The Formation of)
The Ottery St. Mary - Pont L’Eveque Twinning Association
The first firm step towards the formation of the Twining Association took place on 20th March 1975, when residents of Ottery were invited by Don Ryan, under the auspices of the Chamber of Commerce, to a meeting to discuss the principle of twinning with a town in Northern France. From the 23 attendees, a steering committee was formed, chaired by Dr. Michael Denning, the Headmaster of the King’s School in Ottery. The meeting was addressed by Mr. F.S. Claxton, the Devon County Twinning Secretary.
On May 20th 1975, Mr Claxton wrote to Dr. Denning saying that Collumpton had decided not to twin with Pont L’Eveque, but had chosen Ploudalmezeau in Britanny instead. He doubted that the Mayor of Pont L’Eveque would be prepared to try again for a twinned town in Devon, but if he did, Mr Claxton would suggest Ottery St. Mary. This did in fact transpire, and a letter from Dr. Denning dated 4th November 1975 stated that the Mayor of Pont L’Eveque would be pleased to go ahead with twinning arrangements, and that a visit (in either direction) should be instigated as soon as possible. He proposed that the Mayor of Pont L’Eveque, his wife, and M. et Mme Suberchicot should be invited for a visit to Ottery later that year.
In the Minutes of a meeting of the Twinning Committee on 14th July 1976, it was decided to invite a party from Pont L’Eveque in either September or October, and it was hoped that a return visit from Ottery could be made in November. Four members of the Steering Committee (Cllr. George Hansford, Dr. Michael Denning, Mr. Rex Luke and Mrs. Carol Collison) travelled to Pont L’Eveque late in November 1976, and were received with great cordiality and hospitality. Mrs. Collison, Secretary to the Steering Committee, wrote letters in December 1976 to possible sponsors.
The first meeting of the duly constituted Ottery-Pont L’Eveque Twinning Association committee on 1st Jan. 1977 recorded the success of the recent visit to Pont L’Eveque. A visit from Pont L’Eveque was discussed for February 1977, at which the charter would be signed and the twinning arrangements formalised.
The Ottery version of the Charter was duly signed by representatives from both towns at a ceremony held at The Institute, Ottery St. Mary, on 17th February 1977. Another version of the Charter was signed during the first official Twinning visit to Pont L’Eveque on 11th June 1977. On this occasion, the Charter was signed by Cllr. George Hansford and M. David de Rothschild, Mayor of Pont L’Eveque.
C. M. Saunders March 2002
THE CONTINUING STORY
Since 1977 reciprocal visits took place every year, and spare seats on the coach from Ottery were rare. However, number did diminish a little in the late 1980’s, and the finding of hosts in Pont L’Eveque seemed to become more and more difficult. In 1988 Bernadette Hélin stepped in to steer the Association to back onto a firmer footing - the job which she still continues to do successfully twenty-three years later! One outcome of the difficulties encountered during this period was the agreement that visits would take place on alternate years as from 1990.
During the first year of the new century a move was started to expand the activities of the Twinning Association by establishing links with a town in Germany. John and Chloe Brice, together with Michael and Margaret Kerr, did the preparatory work, including making a number of visits, which resulted in the signing of a twinning charter with Ilsfeld at Ottery on 4th October 2003. A small delegation from Ilsfeld visited Ottery early in February 2001, and a large party of 50 residents of Ottery made the first group visit to Ilsfeld in August 2002. This expansion caused the name of the Association to be changed to the “Ottery Twinning Association”.
Frequently the good numbers of dedicated Twinners who have participated in visits to their French and German twinned towns, have been accompanied by members of various groups and activities. These have included the Tennis Club, Exeter Morris, Ottery Choral Society, musical groups from the King’s and the Primary Schools, a Traditional Jazz band, plus other informal entertainment ensembles. Pont L’Eveque has responded with musical and dance groups, a community choir, teams from their football and petanque clubs, etc. The townspeople of Ilsfeld have brought with them a choir and the town band.
C. M. Saunders March 2011
The Ottery Twinning Association has been chaired by the following:
Dr Michael Denning 1977 to 1979
Russell Southern 1979 to 1985
Peter Taylor 1985 to 1987
Hugo Gehring 1987 to 1988
Lindsay Saunders 1988 to 1990
David Harriman 1990 to 1992
Carol Johnston 1993 to 1994
Paul Williams 1994 to 1997
Michael Painter 1997 to 2007
Mark Rix 2007 to date
This is the page with information about the history of the Ottery St Mary Twinning Association