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'We will miss her presence' – long-serving first female verderer Dionis steps down

Dionis Macnair was made an MBE in 2010
Dionis Macnair was made an MBE in 2010

THE first woman to serve on the Verderers’ Court, Dionis Macnair, has retired nearly half a century after first taking up the role.

Burley commoner and pony breeder Dionis (90) decided to step down from the organisation after serving as a verderer for two lengthy spells dating back to 1973.

Difficulties with accessing online meetings meant she has been recorded as absent for all Verderers’ Court and committee meetings since the first lockdown began.

The recipient of an MBE for services to the New Forest in 2010, Dionis is a published author, longstanding pony breeder and a passionate advocate for commoning.

Over the years she has been involved with a number of other Forest organisations, including a record-breaking spell as honorary secretary and council member for the New Forest Pony Breeding and Cattle Society.

Official Verderer Lord Manners recalled Dionis became the first woman to serve on the Verderers’ Court when she was elected in 1973, and she went on to serve under eight Official Verderers.

Lord Manners said: “Dionis is rightly renowned for her knowledge of the New Forest pony. However, she bought more than that expertise to the deliberations of the court.

“She was remarkably well informed on a wide range of subjects. Her often forthright views were tempered by great common sense.

“From her base in Burley she ran a riding stable for many years and passed on her love of ponies to my daughter and countless other children.”

He added: “We will miss her presence on the court and wish her many more happy years with her beloved ponies.”

Verderers clerk Sue Westwood described Dionis’s time on the court as “long and dedicated service”.

She said: “Following her re-appointment two years ago, she was due to stay in post until 2024, so in the new year we will be inviting applications for anyone who would like to step forward for the remaining years of her tenure.

“Usually when elected verderers resign or retire they have an idea of an individual who would be happy to step forward and replace them.

“However, in the current climate it has been difficult to have those conversations with the commoning community so we will looking for applicants to come forward.”

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