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Feather's Miscellany: Eddie Stansfield

Mace bearer Eddie Stansfield has his own particular way of reacting to local government changes.

John Waddington-Feather tells a worthy tale.

To read more of John's stories and articles please click on http://www.openwriting.com/archives/feathers_miscellany/

In a general way of speaking, Eddie Stansfield was a quiet, law-abiding man; about average height and sandy-haired with gentle blue eyes. He was the last person you’d associate with crime – but then many criminals are like that, especially those high up in society like bank directors and Members of Parliament, who have proved the biggest crooks we’ve had. However, when in time he did join the criminal fraternity, he settled in as cosily as a Mason into his new Lodge.

He might never have become a criminal had not the newly established Metropolitan City of Bradyke swallowed up the little Borough of Keighworth in the boundary changes of the 1970s. That marked a dire turning point in Eddie Stansfield’s life, which turned him from a guileless mace-bearer and chauffeur to the mayor to a latter-day Keighworth Moriarty.

He was in his fifties when it all happened, when the Metropolitan Cities of England were dreamed up in Parliament. The new cities immediately swallowed up all the surrounding small towns and villages, which before had run local affairs from their own roosts, but that changed. The new Met City fathers asserted their authority at once by tearing down the boundary signs of the surrounding towns; signs which informed you that you were entering Bingworth or the hamlet of Crossways or Keighworth, and Keighworth’s boundary sign proudly bearing its coat-of-arms disappeared overnight. They were replaced by Big Brother signs, twice the size of the old ones, trumpeting you were about to enter the Metropolitan City of Bradyke.which now sprawled for miles up the Aire Valley and across the flanks of the Pennine Hills When its boundaries went, so did Keighworth’s hard-earned glory.

Its mayor and corporation became part of history. They now formed part of the new Met. City’s council. However, nominally, Keighworth still had its mayor, a Toytown mayor with no authority, who along with his Toytown council paraded themselves once a year in full civic dress on Gala Day, revelling in their robes and regalia, smiling and waving genially from their limousines at the cheering crowds who lined the streets. The rest of the year, their tricorn hats and splendid civic robes edged with fur, were moth-balled. So was the town mace and silver; stashed away in a vault in the old Town Hall and metaphorically speaking so was Eddie Stansfield.

It cut deep with Eddie. For three generations the Stansfields had been mace-bearer for the mayor, beginning with Eddie’s grandfather in the 1880s, when the Borough of Keighworth was formed. That was a golden era in which the town had come of age; growing from a small market town at the start of the century into a thriving industrial town by the end of it. And symbolising its new-found wealth and prestige was the new Victorian Town Hall; not quite the grandiose buildings of, say, Bardyke with its superb Gothic arches and chiming clock, or the neo-classical City Hall of Leeds, but nevertheless it modestly announced Keighworth had made its mark in the world and was as good as any city or town around it.

Cosily snuggled up to it were the post-office and council offices surrounded by newly built streets which any town would be proud of. And no one was more proud of Keighworth than Eddie Stansfield, mace-bearer extraordinary, when he walked with dignity before the mayor on civic occasions in his frock coat and civic dress, complete with tricorn hat and white kid gloves. And when he wasn’t on parade, he was the mayor’s chauffeur and oversaw the Town Hall staff.

He’d never married for his job was his life. Oh yes, he’d socialised a little, played bowls, had the odd drink afterwards, watched cricket and rugby down Garlic Lane; but he wasn’t what you’d call the’ hale fellow well met’ type, and he spent most nights at home reading or listening to good music on the radio. During the day he was an assiduous worker. He organised the cleaning staff at the Town Hall, made sure the mace with its town motto: “By Worth” on the head was gleaming and ready for use; then he went away driving the mayor and mayoress to any civic functions in the borough, always checking that the mayoral chains were immaculate and safely stowed away in the security vault after use.

He took his duties very seriously and made sure the Town Hall was spic and span; each day gathering his little team of cleaners and allocating them their jobs. He was never domineering, but he distanced himself from them to let them know who was boss. The cleaners called each other by their first names but when they addressed Eddie, it was always ‘Mr Stansfield.’ They got on well together but if any of them stepped out of line he was on them in a flash.

To tell the truth he was a bit of a snob and regarded some of his cleaners as ‘common’; especially those who frequented pubs and, he suspected, did rather more than flirt with the men they met there. One of them, Mrs Cannock, was married to a right wrong ‘un, who was in and out of prison; but she worked hard and her husband’s doings were none of Eddie’s business – yet.

Then overnight Keighworth was taken over by Bradyke Met. and his world fell apart.. Eddie was devastated. Gone was his job as mace-bearer and with it his tricorn hat and regalia; gone were the civic processions he proudly headed. It depressed him so much it brought him to the brink of a breakdown. But after the initial shock he pulled himself together and began a very Machiavellian plan for the future.

His job as mace-bearer went to a much younger man in Bradyke; worse still, he was demoted and became one of the very cleaners he’d once supervised. Now he was ordered about by an arrogant administrator sent over from Bradyke. The humiliation of having now to work as an equal with those he considered ‘common’ was almost too much, but it taught Eddie salutary lesson in humility and he became friendly with his old team, especially with Mrs Cannock – and her husband Pete from whom he learned a great deal. He also began attending Spanish lessons at night-school.

As a cleaner he still had access to the priceless mace and the borough silver and gold plate. They’d been valued at millions and were heavily insured. They were at the heart of the plan for building Eddie’s new life, with the help of Pete Cannock, who had several contacts in the world of smelting gold and silver.

Doubtless, dear reader, you’ve already guessed what happened next. Just before the old borough mace and plate disappeared, Eddie already had a false passport and new identity, thanks to Pete’s contacts. The day the borough gold and silver disappeared, so did Eddie to emerge some time later and blossom in Buenos Aires as Eduardo Cannetto.

As Eduardo Cannetto he lived a quiet life. He was fluent in Spanish and soon built up a circle of close friends. He had a healthy deposit in an offshore Argentinian bank and bought himself a little villa at Avellenida along the coast from the capital. He never yearned for England, like many ex-patriots; especially after he married a comfortable widow who nurtured and nourished him the rest of his life.

And perhaps I ought to add that at the annual Mardi Gras festivals in town, Eduardo always led the grand procession dressed in a tricorn hat, frock coat and white kid gloves carrying a wooden replica of the old Keighworth borough mace proudly bearing the motto: “By Worth.”

John Waddington-Feather ©

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