Debate over how Ripon's hornblowers are commemorated

Joel Bastow and George Pickles. Picture: Adrian Murray.
Joel Bastow and George Pickles. Picture: Adrian Murray.

After a whirlwind fortnight of Ripon attracting national and global media interest about its rare job vacancy for a hornblower, a former hornblower and deputy are starting a debate about how those performing their ancient role are commemorated.

George Pickles, the last full-time hornblower who served from 2004 to 2015, and Joel Bastow, a deputy hornblower from 1980 to 1986, are calling for a new plaque to be placed alongside an existing one mounted on the north face of the Obelisk on the Market Square, which lists the names of the city’s hornblowers going back over 200 years.

A firm fixture on the Square for 31 years, the plaque has been read by thousands of visitors flocking to the city to witness the beloved setting of the watch tradition.

But now Mr Pickles is campaigning for a separate plaque to be created for new hornblowers, fearing that the condition of the existing one will deteriorate if more names are added.

Recognising that the hornblower role is now performed by a team instead of a single individual with a deputy, Mr Pickles and Mr Bastow also said that the current plaque should be reserved exclusively for the names of the full-time hornblowers, and for a new one to record the names of members of the hornblower team and deputies.

Mr Pickles said: “The plaque was not designed to add multiple names or for recasting on a regular basis. It was designed to honour full-time Hornblowers with names added after years of proven dedicated service.”

Mr Bastow, who donated the existing plaque in 1986, and has offered to fund a new one, said: “As deputy hornblower for six years I know the downside to being a Hornblower. It is great during the summer when you can bask in the sun with a large crowd of tourists hanging on to your every word.

“But, when you are out there on a cold winter’s night, with the wind whipping round you at 20 knots, and the snow coming down so hard you can barely see 10 feet in front of you, your lips are freezing to the mouth piece and there’s not a soul in sight, you will ask yourself whether this really is a job you want.

“Yes, having to show up on the Market Place over 300 nights of the year will test the fortitude of even the strongest person. Yet, we have had hornblowers that have done this for a decade or more. These people have earned the recognition we are giving them.”

Ripon City Councillor Mick Stanley said: “They are all serving hornblowers, every member of the team - they are not deputies. They all do the same role. It would be very difficult to get any new plaque because you would need to get listed building consent from Harrogate Borough Council to make any changes to the Obelisk.”

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