Express & Star

Flags exchange a part of memorial climb for society

A group of climbers have honoured the memory of fallen friends by completing an annual pilgrimage of Britain's largest mountain.

The team enjoy a gathering in Duncansburgh Church Hall in Fort William following the historic flag exchange. Shaz Saleem holds the Lochaber flag with Mabel Wallace holding the Dudley flag presented by Philip Tibbetts in full regalia in the centre.

The annual Bert Bissell Memorial climb saw a group of people from across the Black Country embark on a climb of Ben Nevis, marking the 10th year that the climb has taken place in memory of the freeman of Dudley and Fort William.

As part of the climb on August 18, the Bert Bissell Memorial Society looked at ways of making the occasion a little bit extra special.

The group had already arranged to be greeted by Fort William Councillor Thomas MacLennan as they came off the mountain.

It was agreed that the climb would be done in honour of the memory of two former climbers who passed away during the last nine months in Ben Corfield and Councillor Richard Body.

On behalf of the Saleem Foundation, former Councillor and Society Vice-Chair Shaz Saleem suggested that sponsorship be obtained to support a project that Richard was passionate about in his role as Chair of the Friends of Homer Hill Park who were raising funds for a Pump Track to benefit youngsters.

Secondly, former Halesowen man Philip Tibbetts, who now lives in Lockerbie, took a great interest in the pilgrimage.

The Dudley team preparing to start the Ben Nevis climb. Dudley historian Rose Cook-Monk holds a tribute to past climbers Ben Corfield and Richard Body. To her left are Councillors Simon Phipps, Chris Barnett and organiser Alderman Steve Waltho with Shaz Saleem to her right holding the Saleem Foundation banner.

Philip helped to design the Black Country flag and is appointed to the Court of Lyon in Scotland as a Vexillologist with official permission to design flags, banners and ensigns for organisations, towns and groups.

He offered to design flags for both Dudley and Fort William to exchange in a ceremony in the town.

Alderman Steve Waltho takes up the story. "We were delighted when Philip not only offered to produce two flags but also offered to preside over the exchange in his ceremonial regalia.

"This is a man who proudly marched behind Queen Elizabeth's funeral carriage and also King Charles Coronation carriage.

"The day after the climb we respectfully visited Bert's grave and Philip led a procession to Bert's graveside complete with flags for a short ceremony in which our other special guest Rose Cook-Monk put a poppy wreath from Bert's local cenotaph in Grazebrook Park Dudley on his grave.

"It was quite a moving moment. We then went back to Duncansburgh Church in Fort William where windows from the former Vicar Street Methodist Church are fitted. Rose then gave a brief talk on Bert's life followed by Philip and his role with the Court of Lyon.

"The grand finale was the flag exchange as Philip officially presented the flags of friendship and peace.

"On behalf of Dudley Shaz Saleem received the Lochaber flag whilst the wonderful Mabel Wallace who gratefully opens the church each year received the Dudley flag. The pilgrimage was a great success".

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