THE door of the House of Commons is ceremoniously closed in his face – but there was a warm welcome for ‘Black Rod’ in Dorset.

Lieutenant General David Leakey, Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, proved to be an entertaining speaker as guest of the Society of Dorset Men at the County Dinner.

Black Rod is a senior officer in the House of Lords as well as being responsible for security and maintaining order. The annual State Opening of Parliament sees him knocking on the door of the House of Commons to demand entrance to summon MPs to attend the Queen in the Lords.

Speaking at the dinner held at the George Albert Hotel at Wardon Hill, he recalled how he, the Queen and Prince Philip had been in a malfunctioning lift in the Victoria Tower on State Opening day. The lift refused to go down as required and instead took the three of them up into the highest reaches of the tower, before the downward control worked again.

“The Queen showed her characteristic good humour,” said Lt Gen Leakey, a former military commander who was educated at Sherborne School.

He went on to explain his role which was established in 1350 by King Edward III. Returning from France, the king appointed his 25 closest advisors as the first Knights of the Garter, who became the King’s Council. Black Rod was appointed as the doorkeeper of the council chamber and the office has continued unbroken for 664 years.

Lt Gen Leakey took up the role in 2010.

The County Dinner was attended by 160 members and their wives.

Another guest was Antiques Roadshow star Paul Atterbury, who lives in Weymouth.

He described the resort as ‘a wonderful town with a rich history,’ adding: “Weymouth is a place of such extraordinary potential, with the finest Regency seafront in England.”

He went on: “Dorset is the only county in England not to have an inch of motorway – and we like it like that. Dorset is a magical county – people are very reluctant to leave.”

Society chairman Stuart Adam paid tribute to Hayne and Pat Russell for their organisation of the annual dinner.

He congratulated Angus Campbell, who was attending his first society function as Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, and thanked Lord and Lady Fellowes for their support of the organisation.

  • Founded 110 years ago, The Society of Dorset Men has a long and rich history, beginning as the Society of Dorset Men in London and aiming to bring together fellow ‘Dorsets’ in the capital city.

However, since the 1950s, the main activities of the organisation have been centred on Dorset. Today, there are around 1,200 members in the UK and all over the world.

The four objects of The Society of Dorset Men are ‘to make and to renew personal friendships and associations, to promote good fellowship among Dorset men wherever they may reside, to foster love of the county and pride in its history and traditions and to assist, by every means in its power, natives of Dorset who may stand in need of the influence and help of the Society.’