Zandra Elliot, who officially stood down as honorary provost of Hawick last week, has paid tribute to the people of the town after enjoying “three wonderful terms of office”.
The former Pringle fashion model, who represents Hawick and Denholm for the Conservatives on Scottish Borders Council, handed over the chains of office to Lib Dem Councillor Ron Smith (Hawick and Hermitage) at an emotionally-charged meeting of the Provost’s Council.
The gender of her successor was never in doubt, given that the post of honorary provost is only open to the town’s six SBC-elected members and the chair and vice-chair of the Hawick and Burnfoot community councils – and all of these eligible candidates were male.
Mrs Elliot, who will not seek re-election to Newtown next May, performed her final official duties last Wednesday afternoon when she presented scrolls of achievement to senior pupils of Hawick High School in the Town Hall.
The event brought the curtain down on three two-year stints as provost since 2003: a period of public service only broken when former councillor Kenneth McCartney assumed the helm in 2005-07.
During her time in office, Mrs Elliot had extended hospitality to world dignitaries, religious leaders, American choirs, Canadian orchestras, French and German schoolchildren, sporting champions, clan gatherings, and teachers and Rotarians from Africa.
She has also welcomed new businesses and initiatives to the town. “If our community is to prosper, it is essential that we welcome newcomers and acknowledge the works, largely voluntary, done by our many clubs, societies and committees,” she told us.
However, she admitted it was her work with the younger generation which had given her great satisfaction.
“One great pleasure of my provostship has been my involvement with our schools and I have marvelled at the excellence of pupils in design, creativity, spoken word, or just simple school projects.”
There are also fond Common Riding memories to cherish.
“It is a demanding and time-consuming event for every provost, but it brings its own rewards. I am particularly fortunate to have presided over proceedings led by six Cornets of the highest calibre. It was a pleasure to get to know them, their Lasses, Rights and Lefts, Acting Fathers and Mothers, and their parents.
“Our Common Riding is the envy of the Borders. It creates a tremendous sense of community spirit and civic pride experienced nowhere else. From my travels, I know that our Common Riding and Cornets are held in high regard for the standards they set – standards to which others are encouraged to aspire by their own towns.”
But she said: “The duty of provost that stands above them all is leading the town’s tribute to the fallen at the annual armistice service. It is a very humbling experience and we should never forget those who gave their lives so that we could enjoy our lives today.”
gNot surprisingly, Councillor Smith, 66, described his predecessor as “a hard act to follow”.
After his installation, he said: “It’s already a tremendous privilege to be a local councillor and now a huge honour to be elected honorary provost.”
The former retired Hawick High depute rector, a native of Motherwell, added: “The Borders has many different, yet similar, towns. The task is to keep Hawick at the forefront and I will continue that ambassadorial role.
“Zandra Elliot has been an outstanding ambassador for the town, immensely respected throughout the Borders and a doughty defender of Hawick’s identity and traditions.
“Gracious, stylish and always perfectly prepared, she will be a hard act to follow, but has set an example for me of the role an honorary provost should fulfil.”
A presentation of a basket of flowers was made to Mrs Elliot, by Evelyn Sangster, on behalf of Future Hawick.