The Honorable Paul Pegg, the Lord mayor of Derby, England, right, allows Mary Powers, of Front Royal, to sit in his chair in the city’s council chamber. Courtesy photo
FRONT ROYAL — About 120 miles north of London, England, sits the “unassuming city of Derby,” as described by an Associated Press writer in an article published in the Northern Virginia Daily on July 20.
Except that Front Royal residents Mary and Bill Powers, of Ashby Station Road, visited this “unassuming city” not on most tourists’ destinations — as described in the article – in June and were guests of the Honorable Paul Pegg, the Lord mayor of Derby, who, in Mary Powers’ words, treated them “like royalty” during an hour-long visit.
The mayor showed them various artifacts associated with his office, including a centuries-old 18-carat gold chain of office that he wears on official occasions; the ceremonial sword and seal of office, also dating back to the 1500s, and provided a brief history of the city that traces its origins back to Roman times a couple thousand years ago.
“He was very gracious with his time, and we appreciated that very much,” Mary Powers said.
In fact, through Randolph-Macon Academy and a program of student exchange visits, Front Royal has enjoyed an association with Derby (pronounced Darby) for more than a decade. It was through the retired headmaster of Derbyshire’s Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (circa 1585) Dr. A.R. (Roger) Wilkes, and my brother, Neville, a frequent visitor to Front Royal, that the local couple came to visit the city and county’s leading citizen. It perhaps should be noted that Derby birthed the famed Rolls-Royce cars (circa 1920). The cars are now built elsewhere but the factory developed into the main manufacturing plant of Rolls-Royce jet engines that power many of today’s commercial aircraft, and of the Spitfire fighter plane of World War II fame.
Neville Barr was the escort for the Front Royal school students from 2003 when part of their 10-day visit to Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School included a meeting with the Derby mayor over traditional cups of tea and biscuits (cookies).
It was in Derby that the Industrial Revolution began with the opening of its Silk Mill. As AP correspondent Alina Hartounian reported in the Northern Virginia Daily’s July 20 issue story, elements of Derby’s rich past have been carefully preserved in small museums, enormous stately homes, and even centuries-old pubs – the Powers’ lunched in one of these pubs called “Ye Olde Dolphin Inn,” which dates back more than 500 years.
It is said that author Jane Austen based her book, “Pride and Prejudice,” on Derbyshire’s Chatsworth House, one of England’s most lavish stately homes. In her book, she called it “Pemberley.”
Malcolm Barr Sr., is a retired journalist living in the Rockland area of Warren County. Born in London in 1933, he was raised in Derbyshire during World War II and attended Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School. His son, serving with the U.S. Air Force in Germany, is a graduate of R-MA.