The Duchess of Cornwall, accompanied by Rose Paterson, came to visit the RUC George Cross Memorial Garden in East Belfast. I attended as High Sheriff of Belfast. The Official Protocol Group were presented as follows:
The Lord Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast Dame Mary Peters DBE who presented:-
The Deputy Lord Mayor of Belfast
Alderman Ruth Patterson
High Sheriff for the County of the City of Belfast
Dr Ian Adamson OBE
Minister, Department of Justice
Mr David Ford MLA
Permanent Secretary, Department of Justice
Mr Nick Perry
Chair, RUC GC Foundation
Mr Jim McDonald CBE LVO KCSG KGCHS DL
Following the introductions, the Duchess, accompanied by the Chairman of the RUC GC Foundation, Mr Jim McDonald, moved to an area of the Garden where he presented the Principal Guest to representatives associated with the RUC GC Foundation. The Protocol Group then had the opportunity to mingle with other guests in the Garden. I spoke to Rose Paterson, who is the granddaughter of Sir Edwin Lutyens, about the great architect. He was responsible, of course, for the design of the Somme Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval in France, which our Somme Association visits every year, as well as the Cenotaph at Whitehall, Westminster. But we also spoke of his work in New Dehli, which I have seen when on tour on President Yeltsin's train to Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Northern India.
I also took the opportunity to thank Matt Baggott, Chief Constable of the PSNI,who is also President of the Christian Police Association, for the talk he gave earlier in the year at Knock Methodist Church. Paul Clarke, who was also present in the Garden, had spoken in the same series. I told the Chief Constable that I would like to see the Bible translated into Ullans. He said that, being a Cockney, he would not be able to read it. I asked if he had ever read the Bible in Cockney and he said he had not. So I said I would get him a copy, and have appended a piece on “This Geezer Jesus” giving his Last Command to the disciples.
The Royal Ulster Constabulary George Cross Foundation was created by the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 for the purpose of ‘marking the sacrifices and honouring the achievements of the Royal Ulster Constabulary’ and will:-
1. Take responsibility for the Garden and for a new purpose-built museum which will be erected beside the Garden.
2. Support the development of police officers and innovations in policing, for example, by providing bursaries, exchange programmes and funding of research on policing topics.
3. Undertake joint initiatives with the RUC Widows’ Association, the RUC Disabled Police Officers’ Association and other persons or groups within the RUC GC family.
4. Arrange and encourage appropriate ‘RUC GC Day’ events.
The development of the Garden was started in February 2000 with the formation of a Working Party consisting of members from a wide-range of interests within the policing family. This group, in conjunction with the PSNI Estate Services Business Unit, began the task of developing a briefing document which stated the objectives and vision, thereby setting the parameters for the physical design of the Garden.
When the Trustees of the Foundation were appointed towards the end of 2001 with responsibility for the Garden, what was the Working Party became the Advisory Group and continued their very valuable work in the development of the project. The Advisory Group now forms the core of the Stakeholders Group which advises the Trustees from the broad Police Family.
The Garden Design Concept The scale and importance of the RUC GC Garden required extensive research of similar schemes and an openness to explore differing and challenging ideas.
Research The Design Team and Advisory Group concluded that, as a Garden for the new millennium, the design should reflect contemporary thinking in terms of ‘a journey’ through the Garden; a sense of place; the use of water and quality materials; focal points; and integral symbolism, all of which allow the visitor to make the Garden their own, both visually and emotionally. Each person will see different things and take away different meanings.
The Site The site chosen for the Garden at Brooklyn included an existing formal terraced garden and a recently planted oak copse which, together with the surrounding mature trees, created an excellent and natural infrastructure. A connecting route through the site was retained and expanded to provide links west to a public area, which presents the story of policing (History Trail) and east to a private area, which encloses an ‘AREA OF PEACE’ where officers who died directly as a result of terrorism and those who died in service are remembered. It is envisaged that visitors will walk through the History Trail and Garden before entering the proposed future Museum.
The first part of the journey through the site is along a path leading to the History Trail which tells part of the story of policing by highlighting notable dates and events. These fascinating exhibition panels can be read in full, indeed a number of seats opposite allow the visitor to read in comfort.
Since the Garden was opened in 2003 it has continued to mature under the watchful eye of Mr and Mrs Orr and the volunteer gardeners who are responsible for weeding and planting and general maintenance.
One large tree on the ‘community side’ of the garden fell in the high winds of the 2009/10 winter and the space created is now developed into a quiet area where a replica stained glass window, taken from St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, and presented by the RUC GC Family on 12 October 2008, is housed: the theme is Peace looking forward to the future.
The Garden was opened by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales on 2 September 2003 and he visited it again on 14 May 2010.
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service
The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service was awarded to the fifty-seven volunteers of the Foundation on 2 June 2011 in recognition of their role as guides to the Memorial Garden, volunteer gardeners and as interviewers in an oral history project