The Mace-Bearer
Keith Holderness could easily be the best known face around Southend, as the town's official Mace-bearer to the Mayor, after all he has accompanied 23 Mayor’s on their official duties which amounts to around 14,000 engagements, making Southend's Mayor one of the busiest in Essex. Keith's role was to make sure everything runs smoothly, keep records of events they attend, and of course provide security for the Mayor. The role of a Mace-bearer and its origins You will not be too surprised to discover the the role has some historic leanings, and from its earliest days would have been connected to the security/bodyguard of the key person, hence the Mace, a weapon used in medieval times. Today, although there is still a security role, the Mace itself is far more decorative and mainly used for ceremonial purposes. The Southend Mace is Victorian and was made by Finley & Taylor, London 1892. Part leaf wrapped cylindrical shaft, stiff leaf and rib decorated vase shaped head, below a gallery of fleur de lys and central Royal crown finial. It is 47 and half inches in length. The head is inscribed: ‘To the Corporation of Southend from Major Rasch MP SE Essex 1892.’ Keith Holderness After my discharge from the Army (Royal Artillery), I was appointed the Lord Mayors Chauffeur for Hull City Council in 1982. In October 1983 I was promoted to the post of Senior Beadle to the Lord Mayor. In 1987 I was appointed as the Northern Warden of the Guild of Mace Bearers. I served seven Lord Mayors of Kingston upon Hull. In most Cities and Town’s the Mayors Officer is known by a variety of titles. This is traditional to that City or Town. For instance in Leeds, he is known as the Sergeant at Mace, in some places it is the Beadle, here in Southend it’s the Mace-bearer. The Beadles were men who preceded the Mayor with long staffs to keep the masses back. In Hull we had three members of staff, The Lord Mayors Chauffeur, The Junior Beadle and The Senior Beadle. Hull being a large City was very busy on the Civic side and had two civic cars, KH1 and 1KH, quite amusing as I had my own personalised number plate. I became the Mace-bearer for Southend in 1989. I knew my predecessor Russell Whitwell quite well. Russell sadly died in 1988 after 8 years as Mace-bearer, and together with some of my colleagues from the north attended his Funeral in Southend. I was approached by Southend Borough Council to apply for the post of Mace-bearer in Southend, my home town. The post was advertised nationally and I know quite a few applied. I was lucky to be granted an interview and was offered the job. I took up my post in April 1989. The first Mayor I worked for was Councillor James Hugill back in 1989. I have attended thousands of events and functions over the years but think the one that comes to mind was the Charter Day celebrations in 1992. Southend was officially 100 years old as a Borough on this day. The Lord Mayor of London came down by train with all his members as they had 100 years before. There was a full day of events throughout the day, and a Time Capsule was buried at Priory Park before we waved off the Lord Mayor at Southend Central. There was a fantastic feeling in the Town on Charter Day; the crowds were tremendous throughout the day at all the locations. Certainly the Lord Mayor had a great time and was a real sport engaging with the people of Southend. Yes I believe it did receive National coverage on the media and TV. Every single day is different and you are always meeting people from all walks of life. During the course of my career I have met most members of the Royal Family and acted as Toastmaster to Her Majesty the Queen and Princess Margaret. I have also met many celebrities, some famous and some not so famous. I have visited many places over the years, including Freetown (Sierra Leone), Rotterdam, Germany, Iceland, Ireland and North Carolina. In my role you can meet the full spectrum of our society in one single day. We also represent Southend in all that we do and always try to give a good impression when we are on duty with the Mayor and Council. One funny incident happened when with the Lord Mayor and Lady Mayoress (Hull) on a visit to 50 Missile Regiment in Menden, Germany in 1987. They were staying as guests with the Commanding Officer in his house. On the morning we were leaving the Lady Mayoress needed to go to the bathroom, unfortunately the key broke in the lock and she could not get out. There was a bit of a flap on as they tried to free her as time was tight and we had to leave for Rotterdam to catch the ferry. In the end we got her to climb out of the window and down some ladders, but she was a good sort and saw the funny side of it. I am very interested in the history of Porters, over the years I have tried to find out as much as possible about Porters and on request take Tours around the house. Porters as it stands now dates from approx 1575, but there was a house on the site from the 13th Century, that is where they believe the name Porters first originated. The house was purchased by the Corporation in 1932. Major work was undertaken between then and 1935 to bring it up to standard, and opened as the Civic House and Mayors Parlour in October 1935. From that date Porters is of course used for Civic purposes. We do a lot of Charity work there for outside organisations and also for each Mayors own charity. Any important Visitors to our Town are usually invited there and given a Reception or Luncheon or Dinner. It is officially the Mayors official home for their year of office, but of course they cannot sleep there as there are no bedrooms. There has always been a rumour that a tunnel exists under Porters going somewhere, but I have never discovered any. The last private owner of Porters Sir Charles Nicholson (1912-1932) also was told of these, and to this end he had excavations made in the garden to try to find them. I have to tell you that he found nothing. There may have well been some tunnels in the past times, but Southend was developing rapidly in the late 19th century and I fear they were lost.

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