A CELEBRITY shepherdess was onhand to officially open a new bank branch that had been long fought for by the late councillor John Blackie.

Amanda Owen, star of Channel 5's Our Yorkshire Farm programme, was the guest of honour at the opening of Newcastle Building Society’s new branch in the Upper Wensleydale Community Office.

She was joined by local dignitaries including Jill McMullon, parish council chair and partner of the late Cllr Blackie, who was instrumental in bringing the Society to Hawes when the town was about to be left without any local banking facilities.

Cllr Blackie worked closely with the Society to develop ideas for how face-to-face financial services might best be provided and identified the Community Office as the most appropriate location.

It has created three new jobs and Tim Larmour, branch manager, said: “The town really turned out to welcome Amanda and remember John at our opening event, and it’s wonderful to be able to welcome so many people into the new branch." Customer director Stuart Miller added: “John Blackie’s drive and commitment was absolutely central to making this project a reality – we think he would like what’s been created in the community that he championed for so long and he was very much in everyone’s thoughts on our official opening day.”