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Ten-minute chat


Barry Johnson retired from cattle/equine practice in 2007 and is now chairman of World Horse Welfare. He served as president of the RCVS in 1993, its 150th year, and is an elected member of the RCVS Council. He was recently sworn in as the High Sheriff of Lancashire.

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What is a High Sheriff?

The office of High Sheriff is an independent, non-political, royal appointment for a single year. There are 55 High Sheriffs serving the counties of England and Wales.

How did your appointment come about?

My appointment came about following a visit from the Lord Lieutenant who had taken soundings. It was a complete surprise to me but I instantly accepted.

When did you find out you had been chosen?

I have known for two years that I had been selected, but until the Queen pricked my name with a bodkin on the parchment list of all new High Sheriffs in the middle of March I could not say anything. As the County Palatine, the Queen personally makes the choice.

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How was your first week?

I hit the road running: on the following Monday I visited a prison; on Tuesday I was at the county's police headquarters; on Wednesday there was a Prince's Trust event; and on Thursday I met the Queen off the train and escorted her to Blackburn Cathedral for the Maundy service and lunch. Then I wrote this.

Tell us more about the duties and responsibilities

The duties include attendance at royal visits in the county and supporting High Court judges when on circuit. We support the police, emergency services, probation and prison services. We also play an active part in supporting and promoting voluntary organisations within the county.

Do you have experience of support for judges and law enforcement agencies?

I have no experience of supporting judges but my father was a serving police officer.

Is it funded?

The role is not remunerated. In Lancashire the sheriff needs to have a coat of arms in order to be able to hang his shield in Lancaster Castle at a ceremony in May following a service in the Priory. The design of one's shield has to be done at the College of Arms in London. Mine includes elements from the RCVS shield and the motto ‘Service, Endeavour and Integrity’. I will be the first vet to hang my shield in a royal castle.

With almost daily engagements (potentially), how will you fit in all your other interests?

With very good organisation and some chaos!

What is the focus for your year?

My focus is on bringing together the groups in socially deprived areas of the county and restorative justice. The eating and drinking comes naturally to me!

Will you be making any awards during your year?

I will be making some personal awards during the year, but as High Sheriff a large part of the job is to say thank you on behalf of the county to all the people who make it work.

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