This month, and in future editions, Pat Kerry, Calow's longest serving Parish Councillor, tells Janet Mort about his 55 years on Calow Parish Council...

One year after their marriage, Pat and his wife, Sheila, moved in 1963 to their new home on Parker Avenue, built by the then Chesterfield Rural District Council. The village was very different in those days: three butchers, three pubs, a Co-op, a Mace shop (now the Rose Avenue surgery) and, on Allpits Road, a chip shop and a general hardware/ D.I.Y. store owned and run by Jimmy Goodson. Jimmy was a Parish Councillor and it was he who first suggested to Pat that he might like to serve the community.

As now, the Council, of eleven councillors, met once a month, but while today's meetings are held at Calow Community Centre, in 1965, the all-male Council met at Calow Junior School, a Victorian stone building opposite the church (now Old School Lane). As the youngest councillor, Pat was taken under the wing of the Parish Clerk, Ron Wilcock, who explained the role of the PC and how it operated. Councillors today can access training courses, and each receives a formal document setting out the importance of corporate responsibility and financial probity, and how at all times they should act with integrity, respect and in the interests of the whole parish. Then word-of-mouth sufficed and it fell to Ron to guide Pat through the intricacies of Parish Council work which was covered by three main accounts; Street Lighting, a General Account for all other work needed in the village and the Free Penny Rate Account which enabled the PC to support local charitable causes.

At that time the Street Lighting Account was the largest of the three. Interestingly, half the village's electricity supply was provided by Staveley Works (non-standard 110 volts) Calow Green, Cock Alley, Lower Alley and Dingle Bank. The rest of the village was supplied by the old East Midlands Electricity Board (EMEB) (National Standard 240 volts). Because coal was transported to Chesterfield, and, through the rail network to all parts of the country, our main road, Top Road, was classed as a road of national importance and the responsibility for street lighting fell to the County Council.

When Derbyshire County Council offered to upgrade the parts of Calow still on 110 volts and adopt the lighting, they offered to take on responsibility for the rest of the village, providing the PC brought street lighting up to standard. The PC decided that although costly initially, it would save money in the long term, and so a project of improvement began, which started with Blacksmith Lane (£1200) and took a number of years to complete. At every stage, external auditors had to be satisfied that the outlay was justified. Street by street, over the next six years, the Parish Council added lights to meet the standard required by DCC who eventually took over responsibility for the whole village.

Seeing through this major project was only part of the work done by the PC, but it convinced Pat that although serving as a Parish Councillor involved hard work and was often complicated, it was an interesting and worthwhile role to take on.