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Mace-Bearer Kath makes history

History has been made as Swansea's first-ever female Mace-Bearer took centre stage at the city's Civic Carol Service in St Mary's Church.

kath banks mace-bearer

The role of Mace-Bearer has been part of the city's civic life dating back to the times of James I, yet the job has never been performed by a woman.

That changed when Swansea Council's Civic Officer Kath Banks bore one of the city's two maces in procession ahead of Lord Mayor, Cllr Peter Black before taking their seats for the service.

Kath, who lives in Penclawdd and has been a civic officer at the Council for five years, said: "It is a tremendous honour for me to be a Mace-Bearer and it's incredible to think that I'm the first female to perform the role.

"It was a great feeling to be helping create a little bit of Swansea history. I'm just really glad I didn't drop the mace - it's hundreds of years old!"

Lord Mayor Peter Black said: "Many congratulations to Kath. The Civic Carol Service is always a brilliant community event. Although this was the first time, it won't be the last and I'm really proud to have been part of creating a new piece of Swansea history."

The Civic Carol Service is held annually at St Mary's and was attended by dignitaries from across South Wales including Her Majesty's Lord Lieutenant of West Glamorgan, High Sheriff of West Glamorgan and Honorary Recorder of Swansea.

The role of Mace-Bearer in Swansea is steeped in civic history. Dating back to at least the time of James I in Swansea, tradition called for a ceremonial mace to be borne in procession ahead of the local Portreeve - the predecessor name for a mayor.

The tradition has continued right up to the present day. The earliest ceremonial maces were created for Swansea in 1615 and are now on display at the Glynn Vivian.

The ceremonial maces held by Kath Banks and fellow Mace-Bearer Ian Willams were made in 1753 and have been used at hundreds of ceremonial events since.

According to history the use of ceremonial maces have their roots in the use of the mace as a battlefield weapon of war and were the weapon of choice of royal bodyguards at public events in the Middle Ages.

Over time the mace and the bearer developed into a ceremonial role in which the bearer still walked ahead of the person they were 'protecting'. By then the mace itself was meant to represent the office holder's authority and were often bestowed by the monarch. 

Probably the UK's most famous ceremonial mace is the one which sits just in front of the Prime Minister's dispatch box in the House of Commons. Famously it was picked up and wielded by Swansea-born Michael Heseltine during parliamentary proceedings in 1976.

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