As a final bit of business at the last District of Sooke council meeting of the current term, Maja Tait was presented with a singular honour that is reserved exclusively for mayors.
The Mayor’s Medallion, a part of the Mayor’s Chain of Office, was removed from the ceremonial chain in recognition of the fact that the mayor and council’s term is about to end.
The Chain of Office now rests at the municipal hall, awaiting the outcome of the municipal election at which time the name of the successful mayoral candidate will be inscribed on a new medallion and installed on the Chain of Office.
And while Tait is in the running for the office and may well be successful in her bid, she won’t have to return the medallion she received last week. Medallions are inscribed with the date of the mayoral term and a new medallion will be struck regardless of who wins.
The Mayor’s Chain of Office is a tradition steeped in history and, depending upon one’s source, is generally acknowledged to date back more 700 years.
Also known as a livery collar, it’s an arguably ostentatious decoration made of heavy chain and worn as an insignia of office or a mark of fealty.
Following a British practice, mayors still wear chains of office that are symbolically placed around their necks during inauguration ceremonies and for special ceremonial events thereafter.
They’re composed of symbolic elements joined with pieces of heavy chain from which a medallion with the municipality’s coat of arms is hung.
In Sooke’s case, the chain of office has the distinction of having been originally delivered to the mayor more than five years after the incorporation of the District in 1999. The problem, it seemed, was that the fledgling municipality not only had no chain of office but no coat of arms to strike onto a medallion for that chain.
The whole thing eventually came to council’s attention and a committee was struck to address the situation.
A coat of arms was finally developed, featuring the colours of Spain (first European contact), salmon to represent the fishery, axes for forestry, green velvet for the trees and blue for the ocean. A cougar and deer were included to peer at one another over a central shield and the inscription “Rainforest Meeting Sea” completed the collection of representations.
That coat of arms was placed on the chain which also featured medallions with camos flowers, salmon and axes.
The whole collection of imagery was presented at the December 2005 inaugural council meeting to Mayor Janet Evans. Her name was inscribed on the first mayor’s medallion and presented to Evans when her term finished.
Should anyone still be curious about the chain of office, it’s on display at the municipal hall for public viewing.