THE new High Sheriff of Cumbria has officially taken on the role in a virtual ceremony held from her garden patio.

Julie Barton was due to be installed in a huge event at Barrow Town Hall but with the coronavirus pandemic she instead held a small gathering at home in Ulverston with people attending via the video calling platform Skype.

The Lord-Lieutenant Claire Hensman, the Undersheriff Tim Cartmell, Julie’s son Joseph and a few others all took part in the gathering although they weren’t there in person.

“All Skype guests were dressed in suits and Claire wore a lovely hat,” said Julie.

“I could see them all on the screen as I made my declaration.”

Present in person - although socially distancing - were outgoing High Sheriff Marcia Reid Fotheringham, Canon Paul Embery, chaplain and parish priest in Ulverston and Dalton, and Les Johnson, a Justice of the Peace.

“Fr Paul brought the church lectern to add to the formality - well he did ask if he could bring anything!” said Julie.

“It was not the 200 people planned but it went well nonetheless.

“Peter, my husband stood in and read a paper on behalf of Claire Hensman and our younger son, John, who was back home from university, stood in and read the script in the place of the Undersheriff.

“My older son, Joseph stayed online after the ceremony to join us for a virtual fizz and canapes reception.

“He and Lucy, his partner, had their own at home, and we virtually chinked glasses and toasted the occasion.

“All very 21st century and special but it does mean I must be one of the only High Sheriffs in the country to have actually been able to hold an installation.”

The ceremony was held before the UK-wide lockdown was announced last Monday.

“Since then, of course guidelines have changed. I am very lucky!” said Julie.

Each year the High Sheriff is handpicked by a group of experts - with the rules being that the sheriff must

The role is seen as an “honour” for those who are approved by the Privy Council and then the Queen but it has changed throughout history.

Marcia Reid Fotheringham, who had been the High Sheriff for Cumbria for the last 12 months, began her Cumbrian journey in 1997, when, at the age of 43, she made the bold step of moving from the Boston area of the USA to Brampton to live with Jim Fotheringham who she later married.

Marcia’s time in the role has been full of highlights.

“I don’t have a favourite one, I value each thing,” she said.

“I am impressed and bowled over by the army of volunteers, who I refer to as the Angels of Cumbria. Many of them they don’t want anything, they could be more appreciated. Saying thank you is a huge thing that they all deserve and don’t all get a lot of. I was amazed by their strength, commitment and determination.

“There are some amazing people that just give, give and give some more.”

Marcia, who is also a magistrate, has herself given back during her time as High Sheriff.

“I have raised a lot of money in the past, brought American musicians here to play and it’s worked out really well doing that kind of thing,” she said.

The 65-year-old has been overwhelmed with the support from people in the county.

“Cumbria has been great.

“One thing you see on the door is appreciation.

“Cumbrians are amazingly determined, amazingly generous and big hearted.

“Volunteers just go about helping others, supporting the NHS, paying for classes or services whatever – an army of fantastic volunteers.”

Marcia also runs Alston Dental Practice alongside husband Jim and has previously worked in family therapy and psychology in Carlisle.

Reflecting on her life so far, Marcia said: “In every chapter I never knew how it was going to turn out. I have appreciation at the way it did.

“My life has given me some amazing things. I would never expect I would have the memory of being High Sheriff.

“I have great pride for the work I have done. I am very proud. I have regret as both parents passed on, as I know both loved taking the credit for me and everything I had done.”