Shirley Matthews becomes Swaffham’s mayor for the seventh time

The new Swaffham Mayor for 2014/15 is Cllr Shirley Matthews. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The new Swaffham Mayor for 2014/15 is Cllr Shirley Matthews. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2014

The civic chains had a very familiar feel for Swaffham’s new mayor, as community stalwart Shirley Matthews accepted the role for the seventh time.

Mrs Matthews first became mayor in 1989 and she made history in 2008 when she took the helm of Swaffham Town Council for the third successive year.

Now at the age of 80, she said her passion for public service had not diminished.

“It still thrills me,” she said. “I am a Breckland councillor as well and I find it absolutely absorbing. I love helping people and when you can push bureaucracy out of the way and help people it feels really good.”

Mrs Matthews praised the “dignity and devotion” of outgoing mayor Anne Thorp – a sentiment echoed by the other councillors present at last night’s meeting.

The new mayor said one of the main focuses of her next 12 months would be to address the impact of dementia in the town.

Mrs Matthews said: “The degree in which this horrible disease of dementia, in its various guises, is infiltrating our society is a cause of great concern. We launched Swaffham as a Dementia Friendly Community in December, but it is flagging and I really want to get it moving.

“I would like to help form a solid base of help from the voluntary sector for both the victims and their carers. To highlight the extent of the problem, if you take the number around the table tonight, which should be 15, by the time we reached the age group of 65 onwards there would be five of us that would expect to have dementia.

“When you bring it down to that level it is really frightening.

“You know the impact it has on families. It is an awful thing when the person you know is not there any more.

“At the other end of the scale, we need to repair the skate park. The notices are up to say it is dangerous but the little darlings go down there and they take them down and carry on. We really need to get on with that.”

Among those who spoke to welcome the new mayor was Breckland district councillor Ian Sherwood, who said: “You first became mayor in 1989 so you have completed a quarter of a century of mayorship. It has to be recognised that you have given such long service to the town.”

After handing over the chains of office, Anne Thorp said: “When I think back a year ago I was very nervous about sitting in the big chair. It was quite daunting but I have enjoyed doing my civic duties, and the places I have been and the people I have met will always have a special place n my heart.”

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