At the Annual Meeting of the Council on Wednesday 19th May 2010 I was sworn in as the new Mayor and Cllr. Norma Wright as the Deputy Mayor. I look forward to representing the Citizens of this great city - the City of Sunderland with the help and support of the Mayoress, my wife Maureen. In this I am inspired by the service of my fellow councillors and Mayors of the past. I am conscious of the sacrifices our families in the City have made in service and loss of loved ones in serving our country in the armed forces, and due to terrorism, and in the work place. Of the memory of my great uncle, Thomas Joseph Coutts, 7 DLI, killed on the Somme in 1916, a family man in his thirties after whom my twin Joseph, who died of Meningitis aged two years, and myself were named, and of another relative, Benjamin Couper, a boy, under age, no known grave, remembered on the Thiepfall Monument. Of my wife's grandfather Jack Rodgers killed in the Stanley Pit disaster working alongside Kevin Keegan's grandfather. My mothers family were descended from William Hedley of Puffin' Billy fame and my father's parents were married in St. Patrick's in the East End. My father worked as a sheet metal worker and worked in the shipbuilding industry and Fairy Aviation and in later life served on the jury of South Shields Coroners Court. My mother was a teacher working till the age of sixty five and was especially skilled in the teaching of reading. They had a family of seven and I was brought up in South Shields, being educated at St. Bedes School, (representing them in the Council Chamber of South Shield's Town Hall at a pupil's conference), and the Marine and Technical College. As a child I was treated for talipes in Sunderland by the Cities hospitals. My mother taking me via the train service of those days from Shields. Brown the surgeon remarked to his fellow surgeon Scott when looking at the very battered and dishevelled plasters on my feet that I looked like something left over from the Western front, much to my mother's amusement. My mother thought I would never pass for the armed forces but at the National Service medical, my school mate who played football for the school team came out downcast and said he'd failed because of flat feet - I said I'd passed with club feet! But what a result for the medics which still today I am grateful for - and also for the recent successful medical treatment I have had at the Sunderland Royal. After infantry training I served with the Royal Corps of Signals attached to the Royal Air Force in Cyprus, afterwards going to De La Salle College and on into teaching. I taught in schools in County Durham and Gateshead and was president of Gateshead National Union of Teachers at one time. I also served in the part time Royal Naval Auxiliary Service for twelve years till it was disbanded in 1994. I then helped with the Jack Crawford Sea Cadets in Hendon for a few years. I also have been involved with ex-forces organisations such as the Fellowship of the Services being its Sunderland District Chairman as well as Branch Chairman of the Sunderland Royal British Legion. I will do my best to support servicemen and their families who are serving in the wars of today. My wife Maureen and I, brought up our two sons Leo and Steven, in the Hendon area of Sunderland, where they attended St. Aidan's School, and Sunderland and Northumbria Universities. It is an area which is now home for me and where I became a governor of Southmoor Community School and Valley Road Community Primary School. It is in Hendon that I was elected as a councillor. As Mayor I hope to continue with a full commitment to deal with and represent the citizens of the ward. I remember the early days where I was having a ward surgery in St. Ignatius Church Hall. It was a dark winters night and there had been no visitors to the surgery until a woman came in. I looked up hopefully but ended up putting her details down for the vicar for her baby to be booked in to be christened. This was in contrast to a recent experience where there was quite a full surgery in Hendon Library's Children's Reading Room, when a late comer came crashing in through the middle French windows, which in my experience had never been opened before over the years I've had a ward surgery there. I passed the remark that he had come in through the round window but I hoped he would be going out through the square door! Anyway despite this I still intend to throw in the odd joke in any speeches I have to make as Mayor but that Maureen the Mayoress will tell the funny version afterwards!
I hold a Ward Surgery every second Monday of the month (except August) between 3.45pm and 4.30pm at Back on the Map, 25 Villette Road, Hendon.