Good will à la carte

French Mayor Gerard Keller (second from left) from Rambervillers has a guided tour of Morpeth Town Hall and he is joined by his wife Jocelyne Keller (left), Morpeth Mayor Mark Horton and Liz Dobson-friend and host of the French visitors for a presentation of gifts for the camera outside the building.
French Mayor Gerard Keller (second from left) from Rambervillers has a guided tour of Morpeth Town Hall and he is joined by his wife Jocelyne Keller (left), Morpeth Mayor Mark Horton and Liz Dobson-friend and host of the French visitors for a presentation of gifts for the camera outside the building.

MORPETH has agreed its own ‘entente cordiale’ with a French town after a meeting of the two mayors.

The bond of friendship has been formed thanks to Liz Dobson, who has kept in touch with a family from the Vosges region of the country more than 50 years after first meeting them.

In 1962, aged 19, she spent a month in a ‘colonie de vacances’ to help organise activities for children. This was on one of her summer breaks while studying for a French degree at Manchester University.

The man running the holiday camp then was Jean Cattant. Along with his brother Andre, during the Second World War he located British aircraft that had been shot down in areas of France and helped the pilots who had survived to first take shelter, then make their way to neutral Switzerland to give them a chance of getting back to Britain.

Mr Cattant’s daughter, Jocelyne Keller, was 14 at the time and after becoming friends with them, Mrs Dobson did not want to lose contact so they corresponded and arranged visits.

She and husband Frank have been to see them at their home in the town of Rambervillers and Mr Cattant and his wife, Pierrette, have come to Morpeth in the past.

But Jocelyne had never visited Northumberland and last week she arrived in the region with her husband Gerard, who is Mayor of Rambervillers.

As well as seeing the sights of the county and the North East and Scotland, they met Morpeth Mayor Mark Horton and were given a tour of the Town Hall.

Mrs Dobson, who was a French teacher and deputy head at King Edward VI School, said: “Jocelyne and Gerard were very impressed with Morpeth. They said it was a beautiful market town and they enjoyed seeing its pretty sights as well as the Northumbrian Gathering.

“They were also fascinated by the regalia in the Town Hall as there is very little of it in Rambervillers. It was a successful meeting of the two mayors and they found that they had a few things in common, for example, both towns have suffered from flooding. We’re grateful to the town council for setting up the reception.”

Mr Horton received a unique hand-made vase and print of the French town and Mr Keller was given a Telford Bridge print by Ivan Webley.