Council stalwart was twice elected Mayor

Eileen Young

Eileen Young

First published in News

A WOMAN who was twice elected Mayor of Witney and served as a councillor for more than 10 years has died aged 68.

Eileen Young served on Witney Town Council from 1977 to 1989 and was Mayor from 1984 to 1986.

She was affectionately known by many as “the Mayoress”, but would frequently remind people that as official rules did not account for women as mayor, the correct address was remarkably still “Mr Mayor”.

She was a Liberal and her time as mayor saw the unusual arrangement, by Witney’s standards, of having a Liberal mayor and a Social Democrat deputy mayor, June King. It also marked a particularly good period of relations between the town and RAF Brize Norton, with Mrs Young becoming a friend of Station Commander Peter Beer.

Her husband Colin told the Oxford Mail: “She was enormously proud to represent the town and to help promote it in any way she could. After being asked to serve as mayor for a second term, she always said ‘the first year was for practice and the second was to get it right’.”

Mrs Young also served as West Oxfordshire district councillor for Witney South from 1979 to 1987 and one of her long-lasting campaigns was to stop the smells coming from an abattoir near her Burwell Farm home in Witney.

Local residents had complained for years that nasty odours were allegedly wafting across from the nearby British Beef Co on Ducklington Lane and so Mrs Young encouraged them to “keep smell diaries”. The smells were eventually lessened after the firm used neutralising agents on the offending substances and further again when the building of the Witney Bypass forced it to relocate.

Helen Eileen Sharp Rotherham was born on November 23, 1945, in Dunfermline, Scotland.

There she grew up with her sister Marlene, before moving south with her mother Margaret and step-father to Blewbury, near Didcot, and then later to Abingdon. Her step-father, Jock, was an engineer at the Atomic Energy Research Establishment in Harwell, and she informally took his surname of Couper.

When she was 13 she was involved in a serious car accident, which left her with a broken pelvis and legs.

It took her 12 months to recover and the injuries would go on to cause her health problems later in life. She attended Faringdon Grammar School for Girls, leaving aged 16 to work as a personal assistant at the Esso Research Centre, in Steventon.

She then went to work for the General Post Office as a telegraphist, and completed a 16-week training course at Bletchley Park, Bucks before working at St Aldate’s post office where she met her future husband Colin.

He said: “She worked at the GPO and I was in to repair the telephone equipment in September 1965.

“She was wearing a charm bracelet, which wasn’t strictly allowed, and it got jammed inside her typewriter. I had to help her get it out. It cost her a coffee and me a long time.”

The couple were married on September 9, 1967, at All Saints Methodist Church, in Abingdon, and lived on the Burwell Farm estate, Witney. Mrs Young then took a job as a personal assistant at the town’s branch of Lee Chadwick Solicitors.

In 1969 they had their first child, Iain, followed by Michelle in 1974. The family later moved to Ducklington Lane in 1986, where Mr Young remains.

After stepping down as a councillor in 1986, Mrs Young took a job running the Alliance & Leicester office in Witney for the owner, but left in the early 1990s when he retired.

Mrs Young’s interests included crosswords and puzzles. She was also a fan of musical productions and was a loyal member of the Daily Telegraph’s users’ panel, which she participated in right up until the final weeks of her life.

Eileen Young died in Sobell House, Headington, on July 13 after a short period of illness. She is survived by her husband Colin, her children Iain and Michelle and her sister Marlene.

Her funeral takes place tomorrow at Oxford Crematorium at 2.15pm.

All who knew her are welcome to attend, family flowers only.

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