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Chesterfield FC Memorial Garden Officially Opens

29 September 2014

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On Sunday Evening the Chesterfield FC Memorial Garden had its official opening, with club legends Ernie Moss and Jamie Hewitt cutting the ribbon.

The evening started with the fabulous sounds of the Ireland Colliery Chesterfield Band who, under musical director Ian Knapton, entertained the strong crowd with a splendid selection of hymns, marches and more modern songs.

Fundraising coordinator Phil Tooley gave an emotive speech to thank those who helped make the dream a reality, with Paul Hollingworth from the Lifehouse Church and Chesterfield chief executive Chris Turner also on hand to reflect on the processes involved with creating the landmark.

At just past 7pm and the sun coming down in a gloriously warm autumn afternoon the squad of soldiers from the Mercian Regiment formed a guard of honour, ably assisted by their mascot, the magnificent ram known as Lance Corporal Derby, ready for the Chesterfield-born duo of Ernie Moss and Jamie Hewitt to step forward and cut the ribbon to officially declare the Memorial Garden open.

Moss remains the club's all-time top scorer with 162 Football League Spireite goals, while Hewitt made more career Spireite appearances for the club than any other Chesterfield-born player.

With the Memorial Garden opened dignitaries and fans alike flowed through the garden taking in the plaques, exhibits and making use of the seats to consider the evening and all the history that the Garden reflects.

Tooley gave his reaction to the evening and all the wonderful entertainment that the fans enjoyed during the official opening.

He said: "It was terrific to see so many people who'd helped the project to get to where it is gather for the official opening. In addition plenty of other supporters who'd probably chucked money in the buckets, bid on ebay or bought a badge were also there to make it a great occasion. 

"The Ireland Colliery Chesterfield Band were perfect for the occasion and their two set lists matched the mood exactly, with Abide With Me in particular bringing a lump to many throats." 

Throughout the evening there were plenty of heartfelt thanks offered to the people who played key roles in the Memorial Garden's realisation, and Tooley highlighted one donor who had helped the Garden to reach its ultimate fundraising target.

He said: "We had many of our generous contributors and benefactors who helped us pass the £35,000 target, most notably Val Griffiths, a neighbour of Kathleen Blakey, Dave's widow who sent us a cheque for a huge amount to get us over the line as a result of her friend Kathleen having such a good time at the Gala Dinner in August."

With the Garden now officially open, Tooley laid out his aspirations for the future.

He said: "We hope the Garden brings happy memories to supporters and acts as a quiet place to contemplate their loved ones no longer with us. 

"We will also encourage school children to use the Garden as part of their studies into the Wars of the 20th Century, to bring a human angle into warfare and its casualties as the 16 players and officials associated with the club have been brought to life on the magnificent interpretation board. 

"The Garden should be about remembering and thanking people who've played a major part in your lives. I'm delighted with the response from the opening and I get the feeling it will be used in the way we all hoped."

Finally, Tooley looked back on the long but worthwhile process that allowed the Garden to be created.

He said: "I feel relieved that it looks like it should, even a bit better as we've been successful enough with the fundraising to build in enhancements. 

"Everyone else involved seemed to be delighted at the look of the Garden and the event at the Opening, so I feel that all's well and we're all in a good place."

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