Whirlwind year comes to an end for South Tyneside Mayoress and Mayoress

SAYING GOODBYE ... Mayor, Coun Eileen Leask, and Mayoress, Coun Olive Punchion.
SAYING GOODBYE ... Mayor, Coun Eileen Leask, and Mayoress, Coun Olive Punchion.

It has been described as a magical mystery tour.

Now, after 12 months of meeting the demands of a jam-packed diary, Mayor and Mayoress Eileen Leask and Olive Punchion say they are happy to hand over the chains of office.

“It really is a demanding role,” said Coun Leask. “For 12 months, your life is not your own – but it is such a rewarding role to have.”

Coun Leask explained that, within weeks of being handed the chains by former Mayor, Coun Jim Sewell, she and Coun Punchion were whisked off to meet the Queen.

But despite hobnobbing with royalty and other civic dignitaries throughout their time as the borough’s first citizens, they say it is South Tyneside’s unsung heroes who have made the biggest impact on their hearts.

“There are so many unsung heroes in South Tyneside, who give so much of their time to help others. They don’t get paid for it and often they don’t get any thanks for it.

“We have met so many groups and clubs, and the people who run them deserve medals – all of them, as these are the people who make society work. They give up their time to work with young people, to keep them busy and divert their energies into doing things that are worthwhile.”

During the past 12 months, the pair have been guests of honour at a number of festivals, attended Christmas parties and presentations.

They have also hosted special events at South Shields Town Hall for schoolchildren and the borough’s solders, either heading out or coming back from Afghanistan.

However, they hailed one of their best moments as the Great North Run, and meeting Olympic hero Mo Farah.

Coun Punchion said: “There have been so many wonderful things we have been able to be involved in – things we never expected.

“I remember going out and waiting for the Olympic Torch to arrive in South Tyneside.

“We were stood there, in the pouring rain, and when the runner arrived everyone was shouting his name and when he finished, he stayed and signed autographs.

“And meeting Mo Farah, that was another one of those moments.

“But it is like Eileen says, you meet all these different people, but it’s the ones who really make a difference that stick in your mind.”

Both Coun Leask and Coun Punchion, who will hand over the chains of office during a ceremony at South Shields Town Hall tomorrow night, say they have both been “honoured” to have been given the opportunity to hold the role for the past 12 months.

Coun Leask added: “On behalf of Olive and myself, I would just like to thank the people of South Tyneside for their hospitality.

“It has been a privilege to meet so many wonderful people during our time as Mayor and Mayoress.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazlisa