Wednesday, 11 August 2021

Portrait of Treasurer

Caricature of Howard Gibson, painted by Carol Ramsay. Caricature of Howard Gibson, painted by Carol Ramsay and framed by Pam Sullivan
Caricature of Howard Gibson, painted by Carol Ramsay and framed by Pam Sullivan


Howard Gibson retired as Honorary Treasurer of New Ferry Butterfly Park, after 22 years of dedicated service, at the park’s recent AGM. We are immensely grateful to Howard for so many years of sterling work, when we could always rely on the Park’s accounts being accurate, up to date, and professionally presented in apple-pie order. When someone like this retires, particularly after such a long period of service, you suddenly realise how important a Treasurer is. It is the only position that any organisation must have. Organisations can cope without a Secretary or a Chair but not without a Treasurer. Howard was a recently retired HSBC (Midland) bank branch manager when in 1998 he was recruited by Mel Roberts, the visionary founder of the park, taking over from our first treasurer Vi Otter.

The Treasurer’s role started on small scale, but has developed into a much more involved role reflecting the considerable development and increased activities taking place at the park. It is busy job in the summer, sorting out weekly collections put in the donation tin and distinguishing between donations: general, wood chip, soil improver or group visits. These are accurately and clearly presented in the annual accounts. The accounts give the committee a clear picture of the financial resources and how each income stream has contributed over the year. Howard’s accounts were used to demonstrate the park is a business - we sell wood chip. This was an important point raised in court in 2009 when protecting the park’s business tenancy. Howard became an expert in VAT and claimed 20% refund on our disabled accessible composting toilet via Cheshire Wildlife Trust. This refund helped with funding the surround ground works required.

The busiest day of the year is the opening day, when nearly 1,000 visitors are entertained. It can be complicated, with cash floats required for several stalls selling goods, tombola tickets, cakes and refreshments, along with the purchase of materials, some items being purchased on the day as the opening day progresses. One opening day required six trips to the supermarket next door to keep the BBQ and Cycle Smoothie supplies going! On the following day whilst volunteers are all recovering, Howard quickly presents the accounts for the opening day, as a thank you to all the volunteers who have contributed to the success of the opening day and sharing how their part in fundraising endeavours has helped. Assistant Treasurers for future such events are required and offers of help would be greatly appreciated.

The most complicated and involved financial project handled by Howard, and one which cost the most at £17,000, was the Comma Project in 2012, during which in a shop in New Ferry Precinct was rented for six months. Each month there was a different artist and a private viewing party at the end of the artist’s residency. It was a challenge to collect all the receipts: “No receipt, no payment” was Howard’s mantra and quite right too. There was the rent, gas, electric and water bills along with decorating bills, artistic materials, and artist’s payment at the end of their residencies.

Howard opening his retirement present.
Howard opening his retirement present

Following this year’s al fresco AGM at the Park, Howard was presented with a caricature of himself painted by Carol Ramsay, who initiated the first opening day. This was beautifully framed, using recycled wood, by Pam Sullivan, who created our Welcome Board. The smile on Howard’s face as he opened the portrait said it all. With such a lovely, personal and fun portrait like that the committee will all want to retire!

To find a replacement for Howard presented some challenges and was a worry as potential Treasurers who were asked declined; then out of the blue John Bateman came forward. John had already started taking a few items on board such as the successful Crowd Funding Campaign for the Silver Jubilee Gates. This raised over £1,000 which is a similar income to an Opening Day but with a lot less effort. John will make an excellent Treasurer as he is already involved in our monthly work parties and is the volunteer who lives the closest to the Park. John will be looking into the world of electronic donations.

Howard will be carrying on at the Park with many of his other roles such as mowing the grass, fixing and painting the site furniture and offering valued advice. Howard has carried out many successful physical projects at the Park; the BBQ stand, the bench by the container, designing compost bins and, best of all, adding a sloping roof to the metal container, keeping it dry and harvesting rain water. Howard has always been a quiet strength of the park and was recognised and celebrated by Cheshire Wildlife Trust, who awarded Howard the Eric Thurston Award in 2015. As Howard hands on the Treasurer’s baton, the Park continues its journey with another ambitious project, the Silver Jubilee gates. Under Howard’s good financial stewardship the park has accrued enough funds to make a significant contribution to this grand project.

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