A Thank You Poem from John Ayres

In 2003 the cliff railway was in a dire state
With closure seeming it’s only fate
Then it was Arthur Christian
Who started us on a mission
To ensure that our piece of engineering history
Would be preserved for this and future generations to see
So protection, promotion and preservation
Became our motto and motivation
The Friends were set up in 2005
To organise events to make the railway thrive
It was in need of a £500,000 expenditure
To ensure it had a satisfactory future
The funds from the sale of St Marychurch Town Hall were donated
So over the next two winters the railway was completely renovated
The contract finished the railway looking pristine
But to sell it to an operator the Council were keen
And by a somewhat peculiar twist
We were the only people on the list
Interviews were held very officially
And the Community Interest Company was a reality
Negotiations continued at a pace
And in December 2006 a lease was in place
A long delay followed a full investigation
As to whether the Council had the right to lease the operation
So in 2008 a new Railway Order was presented to Parliament
And in February 2009 the Transport Minister gave it his assent
Finally on August 1 2009 with a low key ceremony
The Cliff Railway became owned by the Community
Record takings over the next two months provided stability
And gave us funds to do the jobs that were necessary
February 2010 with our own crew and a change of livery
We begin to realise our responsibility
Our first full season and suddenly it got really serious
It was a very steep learning curve for all of us
A Heritage Lottery Grant allowed us to achieve an ambition
To establish a Visitor Centre in which to mount an historical exhibition
A place where our merchandise could be displayed
And where long standing relations with the public can be made
So five years on, a good time for everyone to assess
Whether the transfer of ownership has been a success
But there is no way we could have existed
Without the way all of you have assisted
Us with advice, support, and donations
All this was way beyond our expectation
Tonight is firstly to celebrate the birthday
Of the date we took over the railway
But more importantly to record and demonstrate
To you all that your help and advice we really appreciate
There’s Richard Hutchings of Kitsons who looked after our interest
Ensuring that the deal we got was the best
Brewers and ICI responded to our request so readily
Providing the paint to return the railway to the original livery
In later years we’ve also had support from Waitrose, Datel and Sainsbury’s
All allowing us to use the donations as we please
For any business financial advice is a must
And in Barretts our accountants we really trust
Unlike other businesses we have the Friends as a back up facility
Who are always ready to protect us from insolvency
Problems with the Council arise occasionally
But Peter Addis has always dealt with my moans so patiently
On our growing number of volunteers we depend
They turn out in all weathers and spend
Their free time in the Visitor Centre or station
For their work we receive many a commendation
Our season ticket holders are our mainstay
For many travel with us every day
They go to the beach for a tan and or a dip in the sea
And we do our best to maintain their loyalty
Our employees are second to none
They are all determined to see the job well done
The guys who open the doors every day
Welcome the passengers and send them on their way
Do this in a caring and very efficient fashion
Because for this railway they have developed a real passion
Melanie and Sarah who deal with all the administration
Answer all our paperwork efficiently with no hesitation
Suppliers and correspondents can be assured
That nothing we receive gets ignored
The Directors who volunteered to take responsibility
For the railway have defined the strategy
At frequent meetings the impact of ideas and statistics we discuss
And eventually decide what is best for us
Mary Popham records the minutes accurately
So that there is a record for all to see.
Nicky and Phil have introduced us to Agatha Christie
And Jo ensures we are dressed appropriately
Jim Gill’s films put all the visitors in a great frame of mind
So that they will by merchandise of any kind.
I hope I’ve mentioned everyone in this list
But I sincerely apologise to anyone I’ve missed
We’ve been very lucky as you can see
With the amount of assistance and from all corners of the community
To you all we send our thanks and appreciation for it is true
That we couldn’t have managed anything without you
I believe that for the railway the future is extremely bright
And I look forward that together we can prove me right.

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