The last Mayoress

Last Mayoress of Wallsend Morpeth Rotary
Last Mayoress of Wallsend Morpeth Rotary

Morpeth Rotary Club

IN recent years, we have seen dramatic changes in local government with the demise of Castle Morpeth District Council.

Mary Kelly reminded Morpeth Rotary about earlier dramatic changes when she talked about being the last Mayoress of the Borough of Wallsend in 1973/74.

When her dad was selected to be the last mayor, she got an urgent phone call from him at work. He said that her mum had been unwell and as she was the oldest daughter, she would have to be Mayoress.

At age 25, she was the youngest ever since Wallsend Borough started in 1901.

The year began with the Mayor Making at Wallsend Civic Hall, which had been the family home of Sir GB Hunter of shipyard fame. Part of the site was the hospital where she had been born.

They lived in a Howden street, but still qualified for a pair of ornamental green and gold mayoral lampposts with hanging baskets to be placed outside, which became the favourite gathering place for all local children.

There were up to two or three functions a day and it was not easy financially as you needed unpaid time off work and there were no councillor allowances.

After three weeks she had to give a speech at a school prize-giving and got a call from the Town Hall telling her to pick up her speech. She thanked them, but said she could not do speeches with other people’s words.

Her main social function was the Mayoress At Home where she could even invite work colleagues. She had great memories of the ‘At Home’ of the Mayoress of Morpeth, where there were lots of silver bowls full of strawberries.

The Royal Garden Party was a great event, apart from being accosted by a famous, but drunken MP.

He was dragged away by his friends before it got serious. Ted Garratt, the MP for Wallsend, invited them on a delightful visit to the House of Commons with a meal overlooking the Thames.

As a non-golfer, it was embarrassing to have to open Wallsend Golf Course by playing a shot. She missed, dad offered to play and caught his chain on the swing, nearly knocking himself out.

She went on to visit Inner Wheel and Soroptimists, while dad went to Rotary and Lions.

She was at the grand opening of the Magnum Hotel at Silverlink, but the hair off the cowhide seats stuck to the dark suits of the civic party like snow and they all had to be dusted down.

There were visits to companies and organisations no longer around, including Newcastle Breweries and Gallagher’s Tobacco.

The Remembrance Day parade was over a mile walk from the Town Hall to the cenotaph, but as it was windy and pouring down they were all completely soaked on arrival.

There were civic balls, but no one in the civic party could dance. A civic ball at Seaton Valley, however, produced an excellent dance partner who she later married.

At the end of her year, they welcomed the first Mayor of North Tyneside, Dr Gordon Adam.