TRIBUTES have been paid to a town's first black mayor in recognition of his contribution.

Roddy Critchlow, who arrived in Darlington as a young man from Trinidad, was known as Roddy Francis before changing his name and was a long-serving councillor until 2019, becoming the town's first black mayor.

Married to his wife Marjorie until her death, he changed his name following the death of his father, in the Trinidad tradition, and now lives in a care home.

More in Common Darlington, which campaigns for tolerance and community cohesion, wanted to raise awareness about his contribution to the town in conjunction with Black History Month and collated a host of tributes from community members, helped by his granddaughter Kizzy Railton, who praised his "optimism" in the face of the difficulties he encountered.

She said: "He never has really talked much about being black — he wouldn’t say it was something that has hindered him but, unfortunately, the reality is that it has.

"He has struggled and been at many disadvantages because of his colour throughout his life here.

"His wife’s father did not approve of her marrying a black man, initially. He was targeted in his home, eggs were thrown, 'Black man go home' was written on his walls. Marjorie was the victim of hate because she married a black man. Their children, who are mixed race — or 'dual heritage' if you prefer — were spat on in their prams. Yet grandad has always remained optimistic and has a strong faith.

The Northern Echo:

"That has kept him strong even during the difficult periods of his life. It is something I strive to mirror in my own life, although I have a long way to go.

"I am incredibly proud of all that he has done and achieved for himself, our family and the community."

He was named as Darlington's Citizen of the Year and had a room named after him at the Firthmoor Community Centre in 2012. But he ended up in Darlington by accident, after getting off a train bound for Edinburgh.

Mrs Railton said: "My grandad got off at a random station for a cup of tea. The train proceeded on its way without him, stranding him at Bank Top, much to the good fortune of Darlington."

She added: "He has provided so much love, wisdom and support. Not just for me but, quietly, for this town."