Mark Wilby has been elected Deputy of the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea at the traditional Choosing Day ceremony in All Saints' Church on the first Monday in December.
Mr Wilby, 53, was confirmed as the holder of the ancient office – which dates back to the early 1500s – at a service in front of dozens of Freemen of Brightlingsea and dignitaries including the mayors of Sandwich, Colchester and Brightlingsea and the Lord Lieutenant of Essex.
He takes over the role from Frank Pomroy – who served for two years because of the pandemic – and was proposed by former Deputy John Holding, who described him as an "outstanding citizen" with a record of helping others.
Brightlingsea born and bred, the new Deputy has been a Freeman since 1996 and has been an Assistant the Deputy for five years. Married to Debbie, with two children and one grandchild, Mr Wilby spent 30 years with Essex County Fire and Rescue Service, latterly as Station Commander at Clacton, Weeley and Frinton. He now runs his own gardening and landscaping business.
A keen sailor who has served on the committees of both Brightlingsea Sailing Club and the Colne Yacht Club, Mr Wilby was was one of the town's original First Responders, and his work with the youth in the town includes helping at Beavers and Cubs and teaching cycling proficiency. He was also a governor at Brightlingsea Junior School for five years.
New Freemen – to qualify they must have lived in the town for a year and a day – were also recognised at the service. Those "who had the good sense to have married a Brightlingsea girl" are given their freedom without payment. "Foreigners" are fined eleven old pennies for the privilege. Following the service, the annual Choosing Day lunch was held at Brightlingsea Community Centre.
The Cinque Ports were originally the most important channel ports, contracted to provide ships and men "for the service of the monarch". Brightlingsea is a limb of the port of Sandwich and the only one not in Kent or Sussex. The Deputy's role – and that of the Cinque Ports – is now purely ceremonial.
For more information about the Cinque Port Liberty of Brightlingsea, click here.