Cllr Lt-Col R D D Birdwood, of Horwood House, who this month concludes a year of office as Sheriff of Devon, has accepted an invitation to become the next Mayor of Bideford.
The invitation was extended on Monday, the present Mayor (Dr I H Hewetson) having regretfully declined an invitation to continue for a second term. Dr Hewetson's reason, the Town Clerk (Mr L B Galliford) told the Town Council meeting was professional commitments now being carried out by his colleagues.
A member of one of Devon's most ancient families - in the Exon Domesday a Birdwood is recorded as holding a manor for the Domesday Lord of Totnes - Lieut-Col Birdwood has followed a long family tradition of service in the Forces of the Crown and service to the community as a resident of Devon. Forbears were Mayors of Totnes and Plymouth. His uncle, Field Marshall Lord Birdwood, was made a Freeman of Totnes in 1919.
Brought up at Roborough, North Devon, Lieut-Col Birdwood was in the Indian Medical Service until 1947. During the second world war he served in North Africa and South East Asia Command, winning the Military Cross. Two years after the war he returned to North Devon and took up farming at Warmington, Bideford. His pedigree Dairy Shorthorns have won many prizes and he has been chairman of the South West Shorthorn Breeders' Association. A keen follower of hounds, he is chairman of Torrington Farmers' Hunt, and has been president of Bideford Horse Show and Instow Agricultural Show, was secretary of Alverdiscott Show for about 14 years, and is secretary of Alverdiscott Parish Hall Committee. He is president of Bideford District Youth Amateur Boxing Club and of Bideford No. 2 (original) branch of the Old age Pensions Association. From 1947 to 1962, when the family moved to Horwood, he was Rector's warden at Alverdiscott Church. A member of the Town Council since 1959, he is now chairman of the Water Committee.
The Mayoress-elect is the daughter of the late Sir Thomas and Lady Bilbe-Robinson, of Fittleworth, Sussex. For some years she was a member of a voluntary organisation assisting with maternity and child welfare work at Islington. For nine years, until resigning three years ago owing to pressure of other work, she served on the North Devon Hospital Management Committee, being chairman of the nursing sub-committee. Since 1950 she has been a JP for Devon, sitting on the Torrington Bench, and she is a member of the Devon Magistrates' Courts Committee and of the County
Probation Committee, representing the last mentioned on the County Children's Committee. Mrs Birdwood, a former district commissioner of the Pony Club, is president of Alverdiscott Show.
Lieut-Col and Mrs Birdwood have two sons and a daughter. The elder son, Mr Roger Birdwood, who is growing tobacco in Southern Rhodesia, is married and has a son; their daughter Georgina last September became Mrs John Kirkland and now lives at Coleford, near Crediton; their younger son Gordon, who is 14, is at Wellington College.
When the Mayor announced at Monday's meeting of the Town Council that the recommendation of the General Purposes Committee to invite Lieut-Col Birdwood to accept nomination as Mayor had been carried unanimously, Cllr T W Sherborne interjected; 'No it's not'. He said he was 'not against' Col Birdwood 'as a gentleman or a suitable man for the job.'