Ella Phaup – a great champion of Selkirk

Ella Phaup broses through commom Ridings from the past
Ella Phaup broses through commom Ridings from the past

WITH the passing of Ella Phaup MBE on Sunday – just eight days after her 91st birthday – Selkirk and the central Borders have lost one of their more enduring and dedicated public servants.

For more than four decades, Mrs Phaup proved herself one of her native town’s most loyal and industrious citizens, both in her role as an elected councillor and as a tireless worker for numerous voluntary organisations.

“Ella was a delightful person to work with, as honest as the day is long and a great champion of Selkirk,” said Drew Tulley, who was chairman of Ettrick and Lauderdale Council for most of the 19 years (1977-96) during which Mrs Phaup represented Selkirk.

“I have many, many happy memories of Ella, particularly the friendly rivalry with her Galashiels counterpart, the late Alex Scott. With Ella’s passing, it is indeed the end of an era.”

Ella Lees, born in Selkirk in 1921, was married for more than 50 years to Archie Phaup, a mill mechanic, entering public life after raising her three children.

In 1966 she won a place on Selkirk Town Council and was one of that body’s representatives on Selkirkshire County Council, serving both local authorities until 1974.

In addition, she was a member of the executive committee of the Scottish Borders Tourist Board from 1982-1994, serving as chairman from 1992/93. She was also involved in setting up the Borders’ first local Sports Council in Ettrick and Lauderdale.

During her time as a councillor, she served as Bailie on Selkirk Common Riding and was a passionate supporter of the town’s annual festival. It was a love fostered from childhood and, as an 11-year-old child in 1932, she was chosen to buss the colours of Tom Lees, a relative who was the standard bearer for the now defunct Incorporation of Tailors.

As a councillor in 1982, and after a gap of 50 years, she bussed the Royal Burgh flag for Standard Bearer David Mitchell.

Despite her commitment to local government affairs, Mrs Phaup still found time to initiate a number of community-based projects, including the Selkirk Day Centre which catered for the needs of the town’s elderly population in an innovative way. Hot meals were provided through a lunch club, while day centre volunteers took in the laundry of those unable to manage this chore at home.

Another outstanding contribution came through her work with the Selkirk committee of Cancer Research.

An original committee member, she inaugurated the charity’s highly successful clearing house sale in 1973. The scheme provided a year-round collection service for unwanted household items which were resold at a big sale in the autumn. Over her 37 years as convener of the sale committee, more than £250,000 was raised for Cancer Research.

Mrs Phaup’s other voluntary works included setting up Selkirk Swimming Club and acting as a Sunday School teacher at Selkirk Parish Church, where she also served on the congregational board and fabric committee. She was a founder member of Selkirkshire Antiquarian Society and helped establish a children’s club under the auspices of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

Meanwhile, she was an original member of the Selkirk Hill Management Group and served on the community council after the demise of the district council.

Other notable memberships including the management committee of the Eildon Housing Association and the Friends of Viewfield Hospital, leading a dogged though ultimately unsuccessful campaign to retain the latter facility in the town.

In 2004, this remarkable record of public service was acknowledged when she became an MBE in the New Year Honours list.

At the time, she told TheSouthern: “It has given me a great deal of pleasure to be involved in the community for so many years, working together with so many wonderful people.

“I regard my co-operation with other committee members and volunteers as a great joy. The work we have done together is a reward in itself. Everything I have done has involved other people and, without them, I would not have been able to accomplish anything.

“This honour makes me happy because it brings much-needed attention to Selkirk and the Borders. We live in a wonderful part of the world and I have loved working with so many others to make it a better place.”

Widowed for the past 12 years, Mrs Phaup suffered a stroke three years ago and endured a long period in hospital before spending the last year of her life at Thornfield Nursing Home in Selkirk.

Even in her last days, she remained passionately interested in the affairs of her native town with a friend visiting each Friday to read her extracts from the Selkirk Weekend Advertiser.

She is survived by sons Donald, who lives in Selkirk, and Grahame, of Camden, Maine, USA, daughter Joyce Guthrie of Mindrummill, Northumberland, and six grandchildren.

The funeral is private.