New Mayoral Bodyguard Alan Ribchester with the New Mayor of Durham
Georgina Wilczek

New Bodyguard for a New Mayor

A Durham Rotarian has been sworn in as a new member of the Durham Mayoral Bodyguard at the City’s Mayor-Making Ceremony this week.

Alan Ribchester MBE, Treasurer of the Rotary Club of Durham, has become a member of the 15-strong Durham Bodyguard, protecting the City’s Mayor as the third most prominent person after the Queen and the Lord Lieutenant for the County.

“I’m delighted to have been asked to become a member of the Mayoral Bodyguard,” says Alan. “Durham’s Rotary Club has always had very strong ties with the Mayor of Durham, particularly through the work it does all year round, raising money for local charities and volunteering within the community. In fact, many of Durham’s Mayors, including the 2012 incoming Mayor, are also Rotarians themselves. Yet this is the first time that a member of the Durham Rotary Club has had the honour of protecting the Mayor in this way. I look forward to upholding the long and proud traditions of the Bodyguard for many years to come.”

The Mayor of Durham has the oldest Mayoral Bodyguard outside the City of London. The Bodyguard pride themselves on having never failed to respond to the Mayor’s call to duty ever since the first Mayor of Durham was appointed in 1602.

The function of the bodyguard in the 17th Century was to collect taxes from the toll gates of the city. The proceeds went into civic coffers, but when the mayor left office, so did this money.

Today, the Bodyguard consists of 15 self-governing individuals, dressed in long black coats and Tudor-style hats, and although largely ceremonial, they are still well-armed!

Each of the 15 members of the Bodyguard carries a halberd – a long pole with a spike at its end. Two members of the Bodyguard carry staffs – implements which were originally used by the constables appointed by the Warden in the days prior to the Police Force. The Captain of the Bodyguard carries a silver-topped cane, and a civic sword and mace are carried by special bearers, the mace being a symbol of the Mayor’s authority in the City.

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