Interview: High Sheriff of Kent Remony Millwater
PUBLISHED: 14:37 20 July 2020
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
A High Sheriff whose year has been brought to a standstill before it’s even begun, Remony Millwater has gained impressive new social media skills
Tell us a bit about you
I was born in Chatham, grew up on a farm in Hoo, and lived there until I got married in 1987. I went to Benenden School and then went north to St Andrews for University.
We lived in Suffolk and London for a short time while the children were young, but moved back to Kent in 1999.
We kept coming back and Kent has always been home for me. We have lived in our current house in Sandwich Bay for 16 years and have three daughters, one granddaughter and two Labradors.
How did Covid-19 change the start to your High Sheriff year?
I thought I was fairly organised for my year as High Sheriff. The invitations for the Declaration Service, which should have taken place on 4 April, had been sent out and most replies had come in. We had planned the service and approved the service sheets, but fortunately hadn’t yet had them printed.
We had 200 people on the guest list to attend the church service and reception in the garden afterwards and we’d organised the marquee. Now we’ve put the deposit towards a future event and I am hopeful that there will be an opportunity to host a celebration/party before the end of my year in office. The caterers were also very accommodating!
We were all obviously disappointed but there was no alternative. In the days leading up to the date we changed plans almost on a daily basis, reducing the event from 200 in the church to possibly 100, then to just 20 or so close friends in the medieval old courtroom in Sandwich.
In the end I made my Declaration via Zoom with some friends and family tuned in, together with HHJ David Griffith Jones presiding, Paul Barrett, the outgoing High Sheriff and Catherine Lloyd, new Under Sheriff all having access to the proceedings. Paul kindly cycled from Canterbury to Sandwich to deliver the badge of office!
Although things since the Declaration have certainly been different to what we had planned and expected, I have relished the opportunity to get in touch (via letter writing, emails and video chats) with some wonderful Kent-based charities, the emergency services, police, prison governors and the border force who are working harder than ever in the current crisis, offering my support and good wishes.
With the help of my daughter and PA, I have also been working on the High Sheriff of Kent social media platforms and I’ve had some wonderful questions and feedback on there from the general public.
Although this was not the planned start to my year, it has opened new doors and opportunities that I may have missed had my year gone completely to plan.
BC (Before Covid) what were your themes and what were you looking forward to most?
BC I was really looking forward to meeting people, hosting lunches for the judges and spending time in the courts. I have heard so many great things about the close relationship between the police and the High Sheriff and was very keen to experience this myself.
I had already visited two of Kent’s prisons and was looking forward to going to the other five, as well as meeting the governors and officers to show my support.
As I live in Sandwich Bay with views over the channel, I am particularly interested in the work of the Border Force. I’ve visited their office in Folkestone and have had phone calls to find out more about their work, particularly in these challenging times. One of the things I’m looking forward to PC (Post Covid) is going out in one of their boats.
I am also passionate about supporting Kent produce in all forms, especially food and wine. Having grown up on a Kent farm that’s now run by my brother, this is also hugely important to me.
BC and before my Declaration I was asked by friends and family what exactly the role of the High Sheriff is and its relevance today. Since Covid has taken over our lives and I have spent time writing letters and emails of support and encouragement, I have learned that the relevance of the High Sheriff today is to show support to the judiciary, emergency services and charities and I have learned how much that is appreciated.
Have you been able to perform any duties or host any events?
I have not yet had the opportunity to go out of my house in my High Sheriff outfit (except for the Kent Life photoshoot!). I haven’t been able to fulfil any duties in the traditional way, but I have written more than 200 letters and emails of support, appreciation and introduction to individuals and institutions connected to Law and Order, charities most affected by the virus and any local heroes that I can find from trawling through the local papers and online news.
I have had ‘virtual’ meetings with the police and border force and have others scheduled for the next few weeks.
It is upsetting, looking at the diary every day and just seeing the word ‘cancelled’ over everything.
We should have been going to a Buckingham Palace Garden Party, which is a particular disappointment, especially for my youngest daughter who would have attended with my husband and I.
I was also very sad that I could not attend any of the VE Day celebrations; however, I did record a short message for the service from Rochester Cathedral and sent a photo for the video that Dover Castle put together to replace the VE Day service.
I also hosted a virtual tea party and made 40 afternoon teas which I distributed to the older generation in Sandwich in return for which they made donations to charity.
How important has your family been?
My family has been fantastic and eternally optimistic. I am so fortunate that my middle daughter last year offered to give up working in London to be my assistant for the year. She has taught me how to use social media and set up Instagram and Twitter accounts, and I have surprised myself by how much I enjoy it, although I am still reliant on her for some of the technicalities.
Grahame always has a solution and idea to make the best of every situation and has been supportive, encouraging and generous since the moment I agreed to take on this role. My father was High Sheriff of Kent 40 years ago, sadly he died nine years ago but my mother is thrilled with my appointment. She kept a journal of my father’s year in office, so it has been very interesting reading how the role has changed. My grandfather was also High Sheriff in 1965.
What have you missed most?
It was very sad to have to cancel the Declaration, it was probably the event that as a family we were most looking forward to. I hope that the Garden Party will not be cancelled but postponed until September, with the Justices Services hopefully takinf place in October. It is a great shame not to be able to support the wonderful work that our judges do by providing lunches for them in Court, but I hope to make this up to them later in the year.
What’s a typical day like right now?
A typical day for me is to wake early and do yoga or pilates for an hour before breakfast. I then disappear to my study and try to do emails and read the papers. After lunch I take my dogs for a walk on Sandwich Bay and the golf course.
One of the biggest changes in my life since Covid has been having Grahame at home all the time. He used to spend at least two weeks a month travelling, I am now having to cook lunch and dinner for him every day! We also have two of our daughters and their boyfriends at home, so we feel incredibly fortunate but there is a lot of cooking and food preparation – which luckily I enjoy. My mother and mother-in-law live in Sandwich so we constantly need to check that they are OK. I had plans to tidy cupboards, sort photos and do a number of tasks I’ve put off for a long time, but I haven’t achieved any of those yet!
Tell us about your High Sheriff outfit
My outfit was made by Judy Mott in Tunbridge Wells and one of my biggest disappointments is that I have not been able to wear it for any events yet. I love the colour and it is the first time that I have ever had an outfit hand made for me.
The only time it has been worn so far is for the photo shoot at Royal St Georges. The buttons are very old and came off the outfit from a friend of my father. Sadly, my father’s outfit was borrowed so I couldn’t use any part of it for mine.
What is the first thing you will do post-lockdown?
I am looking forward to getting back on the golf course and seeing my friends. As High Sheriff I am looking forward to building the relationship with the police and Border Force, meeting the people I have been communicating with and most especially attending court and giving lunch to the judges in recognition of the very hard times that they have endured.