Absentee Mayor chairs council meeting

[The Luton News: Thursday, September 4th, 1919]

The Mayor of Luton (Councillor H. Impey), who has been absent from the town for the greater part of the time since the night of the riots on July 19th, was present at Tuesday's meeting of the Town Council. In explaining his absence from the meetings held in the intervening time, he also stated that he proposed to continue to hold the office of Mayor till his successor is appointed in the normal course in November, and then for health reasons to vacate all his public appointments.

Before proceeding with the ordinary business of the meeting, the Mayor (pictured with macebearer Frederick Rignall), said: “I want to do tonight what I was anxious to do a month ago, but which on medical advice I was unable to do. I am here tonight against medical orders. I am sorry to say I am not very much improved in health, but I thank the Council for the kind letter of sympathy they sent.

Mayor Henry Impey and macebearer“No one regrets more than I do the terrible events that took place in the town. I want it to be clearly stated that I never have had any idea that discharged sailors and soldiers and soldiers of any organisation had anything to do with the affair that we all regret so much.

“With reference to the matter of Wardown, I simply was one of some colleagues, and I say today, as I said then, that Pope's Meadow was practically Wardown and, personally, I thought it would be better to have the service on rising ground, although I do not think that had anything to do with the disturbances in the town.

“I had an interview two months before with the Secretary of the DS&S, and they did put to me the question of a drumhead memorial service. I thoroughly fell in with it, and did all I could to suggest what was best to carry it out, and even suggested at that time that Luton Hoo Park, for quietude, size and rising ground, would be the very best spot to hold it. There is no more for me to say any more on that.

“With reference to the Peace Celebrations, I think it is fair to myself I should say this: On June 27th I interviewed Lady Wernher, at the request of Mr Baker [Hoo Steward], and Lady Wernher was willing to fall in with any suggestions I had to make, and that she felt were the best celebration in connection with our town. The soldiers and the children were put before her as cases needing attention. I told her the town would no doubt take them up, and she preferred at the time the children.

“Mr Baker saw me a week afterwards, and said Lady Wernher had decided to leave the children to the town, and to deal herself with the soldiers on August 16th, which was carried out. Mr Baker came to me before the celebrations and said: 'I have just been to the DS&S and the Comrades of the Great War and given them their invitations, and I hand you now a letter with a plan in it of the ground which Lady Wernher has decided to grant, as you suggested, as a war memorial park in the south end of the town'.

“When I mentioned to the Peace Celebration Committee that Lady Wernher was going to entertain the soldiers, the Committee at once decided they would deal with the children, and because of the medals not being ready and the teachers being away, it was decided this part of the celebration should be held later on.

“With respect to the Town Clerk and myself, a lot of odium has been put forward, no doubt. I have not read a paper since I have been away. I have not read one paper of any kind locally, but from the letters that have been sent to me, out of hundreds of letters that have been sent sympathising with me in this matter, only one or two – and those anonymously, have come reflecting on the Council in any way and, of course, they were calling the Council down from top to bottom.

“I do not want to say anything reflecting on any of my colleagues, but I should like to say this is praise of a few of them. Alderman Oakley, Alderman Arnold, Alderman Cain, Councillor Escott and Councillor Barford stuck through it [in the Town Hall on Peace Day], until Alderman Cain had to go because of his wife being ill. The others stuck right through to the bitter end, until we were obliged to leave the building at the finish. Alderman Williams came in several times to see that I was all right, and so did Councillor Briggs, and I personally thank them, for it would have been rather worse than it was had I been left there all alone.

“The Town Clerk, too, stood by me. In all matters connected with the Council, although sometimes his opinion has been different from mine, we have come to an agreement, and every step I have taken all along during the time I have held office has been in conjunction with the Town Clerk.

“I feel that the outcome of the whole of it will be that though some may get punishment in one way, I, unfortunately, shall have to suffer the greatest punishment, for, under medical advice, I shall have to disappear when November comes, and to retire from all public offices – work that my heart and soul has been in for 20 of the best years of my life.

“But I must study my health, and that will be the outcome in November. I shall continue to hold the position until that time comes round, but another candidate will have to be found for the vacancy in the East Ward in connection with my other public offices.

“It cuts me to the heart to say this, because if there is any work I love it is public work.”

Councillor Bone remarked: “Stick to it.” But apart from this the statement was received in silence.