THE outgoing Mayor of Darlington has spoken of his hope that the borough’s civic links with its Gypsy and traveller community will be strengthened.

Councillor Nick Wallis said seeing Darlington’s Gypsies represented at the town’s Remembrance Sunday parade for the first time, commemorating Gypsies who fought in both world wars and died in the Holocaust, had been among the highlights of his year as the civic leader.

He said: “I am really proud to be the first serving mayor of Darlington to visit one of the Gypsy sites in the borough. They do fantastic work raising money for charity and breaking down prejudices. I am looking to continue that work after my term as mayor.”

The long-serving Labour councillor for Haughton and Springfield was handed the prestigious role at the last minute after both councillors that had been set to be mayor and deputy mayor lost their seats in last May’s elections.

He said while it had been “a case of learning on the job”, both for himself and the mayoress, his wife Sandy Thorne-Wallis, they had set out to “build on the strengths of the mayoralty as a hugely important institution in the town”.

He said: “When you wear the chains it is amazing the reaction you get. Sandy and I were blown away by the amount of fantastic work that goes on round the borough.”

Cllr Wallis said representing Darlington in the region had been a privilege, and events such as Ripon’s ancient Setting the Watch ceremony and the Hartlepool to Whitby St Hild pilgrimage would live long in the memory.

Before lockdown curtailed the democratic process earlier this year Cllr Wallis urged the authority’s 49 other elected members to reflect on their conduct after a local authority’s most important meeting of the year descended into unseemly scenes.

He said he hoped efforts to develop mutual respect between political parties as well as his mission to demystify and share civic property would be furthered.

Cllr Wallis, who also launched a mayoral Facebook page to promote the office and the borough, said among the publicly-owned treasures he had discovered in the town hall were the borough’s aldermen robes, which had not been seen for 40 years.

He has also revealed on social media pieces of historic Mayoral regalia and the “exquisite and historic watercolours” of The Queen Victoria Diamond Jubilee Record Book, which has been a record of major civic events in the town since 1897.