Two CEC cabinet members, Wilmslow's Rod Menlove and leader Michael Jones, have stated publicly that Romany's caravan, recently subject to a £7,000 restoration at private expense, should be sent to a museum in Bradford.
There, presumably, the Council would be able to shed all responsibity for it. Given the financial climate this is, perhaps, understandable. However, their enthusiasm for its disposal seems to have been economical not just with the county coffers but also with truth and commonsense.
The caravan was originally given by Romany's widow to the Wilmslow UDC, passing to Macclesfield Borough after the 1974 local government reforms, and thence to Cheshire East Council. The Council has pressed the Bradford Museum as the solution, leaning on the Romany Society's Committee to the point of drafting a motion for them which would leave the Society with no say in the van's future.
A council spokesman claimed that only £81 had been subscribed to meet the recent renovation bill, first estimated at £6,000, but the Society's accounts show that £5,750 was raised. It was also claimed that the Society committee was two-thirds in favour of CEC's proposal (which one feels bordered on intimidation) but the committee was in fact split down the middle in this week's vote. The caravan's artefacts appear to have been scattered by the former Cheshire Council, and no satisfactory information or assistance is forthcoming about their present whereabouts.
On BBC "Look North", Cllr Menlove observed that the caravan now included substantial new timbers, implying that it was no longer the same vehicle: perhaps he would care to reflect on Nelson's "Victory" or the "Cutty Sark", where the degree of restoration is vastly greater. So if the caravan rots it is lost; but if it's repaired it's no longer authentic...
The point has also been made that the Bradford museum has a traveller's theme suited for Romany's caravan. True, Romany had a gypsy mother, but his name was merely an entertainer's sobriquet: in reality he was a Methodist minister and prolific author and broadcaster, not an itinerant tinker.
A possible solution would be for the caravan to be gifted to our new Town Council, as the heirs to the old urban district council. Some councillors have been approached and expressed an interest.
This would allow time for local options for the caravan to be explored, including public appeals, the sourcing of a weatherproof and vandalproof location (which might encompass a canopy on the existing site near the library) and a recognition of Romany's role in an honorable line of naturalists, ranging from Rev. Gilbert White at Selborne to the incomparable David Attenborough today.
It would be a wonderful challenge for our local council to show its initiative, and make the most of a local celebrity, of which worthies there are all too few. And, if all failed, Bradford would still be there but Wilmslow would at least have tried.
The message? That Cheshire East Council should postpone their final solution until Wilmslow has had the opportunity to find a better one.
This is a member post by Peter Stubbs, Vice-President of Wilmslow Trust.