ELECTIONS to fill key positions within the ranks of a city’s historic body of freemen produced a notable ‘hat-trick’ of firsts.

Mac Williams, recently voted in as warden of the Butchers’ Company for Durham City Freemen, is believed to be the first member of the ethnic community to hold such a post in the North-East.

Another first within the ethnic community was established when Trevor Carter, a Durham University graduate of almost 50 years, who has taught and then run his own IT business since, was installed a deputy warden, in his case of the Drapers’ Company.

Ann Thurlow, who has led the Joiners’ Company for four years, completed the landmark treble by becoming chair of the wardens, the first woman to take the reins in the freemen’s near 700-year-history.

Mr Williams and Mr Carter, both leading figures in the local community, accepted rarely offered invitations to join the freemen and commit the benefit of their skill and experience to the future development the eight surviving trade guilds.

Mrs Thurlow’s family commitment to the freemen is hard to match, with nearly half of the 42 members of the Joiners’ Guild made up of members of her ‘extended clan’.

Fifty-eight-year-old Mrs Thurlow was among 17 women who brushed aside the freemen’s previous all-male preserve when they were admitted in 2012, courtesy of the requirements of new equality laws.

Four years later she stepped forward to fill the warden’s vacancy created when her brother stepped down.

“Immensely proud” to be carrying on the long family tradition, the retired bus driver, who still does a school bus run, fervently hopes her three grandchildren, aged 15 to seven, will follow in her footsteps when they reach their 18th birthdays.