Chickerell-born Town Councillor and Mayor John Dean has been invested as the 127th Chief Ranger [President] of Honorary Court Highclere No. 1 Weymouth of the Ancient Order of Foresters, founded in the Borough exactly 130 years ago. The Honorary Court has met in Weymouth four times a year since 10 October 1887, when it was founded by Pelly Hooper, Town Clerk of Weymouth & Melcombe Regis for over 20 years.

Retiring Chief Ranger Michel Hooper-Immins had earlier referred to the establishment of the altruistic Weymouth organisation 130 years ago, saying: “We open this court with the same words as were used by the first Chief Ranger in October 1887 and we remember our Founder Pelly Hooper today.” Mr. Hooper-Immins recalled that 1887 had seen the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Robert Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, had been the Prime Minister, whose estate was at Cranborne Chase in North Dorset. Members rose to toast the Founder and the 130th anniversary of foundation with a glass of port.

“As one of the oldest organisations in the Borough, we have continued to raise money for local charities and enjoy our varied fundraising events while we do it,” concluded Michel Hooper-Immins. He then invested Councillor John Dean as the new Chief Ranger, wishing him a happy and successful year in office.

John Dean is currently Town Mayor of Chickerell for the fourth time, having been a councillor for 29 years and Editor of Contact– the parish magazine for Chickerell and Fleet- for 35 years. Apart from two years National Service with the Royal Engineers in Germany, he has lived in Chickerell all of his life. He was educated at Chickerell School- where he later served for eleven years as a Governor- going on to Weymouth Grammar School, before studying at South Dorset Technical College. Married to Gillian, they celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary this year, with their sons Russell & Alistair and two grandchildren.

John Dean comments: “Taking over as Chief Ranger of Highclere for this important 130thanniversary year is a privilege and an honour, to follow in the footsteps of the retiring Chief Ranger and his predecessors. I am grateful for their help over the past year as Sub Chief Ranger.”

The new Chief Ranger’s chosen charity for his year is Read Easy, who help adults to read. On Saturday 18 November, Chief Ranger Councillor John Dean will welcome the Mayor and Mayoress of Weymouth & Portland, Councillor Kevin and Anne Brookes to the Court’s annual dinner at Weymouth Golf Club.

Alan Gordon becomes the new Sub Chief Ranger [Vice President] and will take over the presidency next year. Munro Ross has been reappointed as the Court’s Secretary, an office he has held since 1996. Treasurer Tom Savage, Court Co-Ordinator Alderman Peter Rendall and Welfare Officer George Pering were similarly reappointed. Brian Herbert continues as Beadle. Freeman of the Borough and Alderman Roy Gainey is the longest serving member, having joined in April 1974.

Honorary Court Highclere No. 1 Weymouth of the Ancient Order of Foresters met at the Guildhall from 1887 and from 1974 at the Council Offices. In 2012, the Court moved to the Grade II listed Pilgrim House in Hope Square, owned by Weymouth Rotary Club.

The Honorary Court is today an altruistic organisation that raises funds for local charities. New members are welcome and enquiries about joining the Honorary Court should be made to Secretary Munro Ross at 01305 784320.

Note that unlike many courts of the Ancient Order of Foresters, Honorary Court Highclere No. 1 Weymouth, does not sell or deal in insurance.

Michel Hooper-Immins

Inset Photo: Retiring Chief Ranger Michel Hooper-Immins [front right] congratulates new Chief Ranger Councillor John Dean.   Behind are Munro Ross [Secretary,] Alderman Peter Rendall [Court Co-Ordinator,] Tom Savage [Treasurer,] Alan Gordon [Sub Chief Ranger] and Brian Herbert [Beadle.]

Photograph by Hugh Chalker