IN a possible first for the organisation, the Rotary's presidential chains have been delivered to the new holder via a gardening hoe to try and ensure social distancing.

Nigel Little has taken over as president of Darlington Rotary, almost 50 years since his father, Tony Little held the office.

The Darlington solicitor was president in 1971, while his son, a retired marketing and sales executive for the textile trade, took over from outgoing president Sue Campbell last week.

Mr Little, who lives in Darlington with his wife, Aileen, becomes the club’s 98th annual president, and he and his late father are one of two father/son combinations to have held the post.

The other was Ken Warne in 1980 and Barry Warne in 1995.

Mr Little was inaugurated at a Zoom handover event, which was attended by more than 60 people.

However, the presidential chain was delivered by Ms Campbell to Mr Little in his garden, as he and his wife are both keen gardeners, using a hoe to maintain social distancing.

Mr Little said: "We would normally have a social dinner to mark the end of one presidential year and the start of another.

"But instead we had our event by Zoom and were delighted that so many members, friends and family were there to see it."

They were also joined by his two daughters, both of whom were able to watch despite living on the other side of the world. Jo works and lives in Dar Es Salaam and Caz in Ottawa, Canada.

Mr Little joined Darlington Rotary – which has more than 80 members – 10 years ago.

He has served as its community service chairman, which coordinates activities and fundraising, and as speaker finder.

He also organises the annual charity bike ride, which in seven years has raised around £55,000.

Outgoing President, Sue Campbell – who was Darlington Rotary’s first woman president – said: "It has been, by all measures, an extraordinary year but it is a testimony to the strength of the organisation that we have grown in numbers, even through this last few months. I wish Nigel all the best as we moved forward."