This is the text of the speech I gave to the gathering of people from our three twinned towns on Saturday 16th May 2015. It speaks of the precious thing that is friendship across borders.
"Mr Mayor of Ancenis, Madam Mayor of Bad Brückenau, ladies and gentlemen,
It is with great pleasure and pride that I speak for the first time as President of the Kirkham Twinning Association at a visit to one of our twin towns. I also have the pleasure of bringing greetings from the Mayor of Kirkham and the Town Council: you will be aware that we in Britain are in the midst of our electoral process at both local and national level, and so our council representatives are unable to be present here in Ancenis on this occasion. We are delighted to have with us Mrs Sheila Hardy, whose husband Councillor Peter Hardy has just been elected as Mayor of Fylde Borough, our municipality. It is a great honour for Kirkham that one of our Councillors has been elected to this role, and Peter will be formally installed as Mayor at a civic ceremony on this coming Wednesday. It is particularly pleasing for those gathered here today to know that Peter is a loyal and enthusiastic member of the Kirkham Twinning Association. May I ask the people of our three twin towns to join me in wishing Peter a successful year as Mayor of Fylde Borough Council.
We meet here in Ancenis at a time of poignant anniversaries: a hundred years since the First World War and 70 years since the end of the Second World War. All of us gathered here now are too young to remember those two conflicts between European neighbours, but the legacy and memories of those dark times for our continent are still very much with us, not least as we mark these anniversaries.
Let us therefore rejoice in the fact that we meet every year in one of our towns as friends and partners. I have recently been editing my grandfather’s autobiography, and reading with sadness how almost exactly a hundred years ago, he travelled to France as a young man to fight in that futile conflict. He survived, where thousands of English, French and German young men did not, but he, like so many of his generation, was saddened to find Europe at war again just twenty years later.
How lucky we are, and how precious it is, that in our generation, the peoples of our three towns meet not to fight, but to share fellowship, food, drink and culture. How sad it is that there are those in our three countries who seek to undermine the European project, but we must not let those voices prevail.
So it is with great pride, passion and enthusiasm that I say “Long Live Twinning!”