The Mayor and Mayoress of Darlington speak courageously and movingly about the heartbreak behind their decision to support a charity dedicated to helping parents who have lost babies…

WHEN he became the latest Mayor of Darlington, Chris McEwan’s thoughts turned – as they often do – to the horror and heartbreak of a summer’s night nearly 30 years ago.

It was the night Chris, and his wife Amanda, woke at 2am to discover that their baby, William, who was being breast-fed, was lifeless in the bed beside them.

Amanda, a nurse at Newcastle Royal Victoria Infirmary, desperately tried to revive him, while Chris telephoned for an ambulance, but William had become a victim of “cot death”.

“There was nothing we could do – it was utterly devastating,” says Chris.

Born on July 11, 1991, and the couple’s first child, William was just eight-weeks-old when he died.

Three decades on, Chris has retired from his job as a health service manager to concentrate on his role as a councillor and community campaigner.

He was sworn in as Darlington’s Mayor in June, ready to face a challenging tenure as the borough’s first citizen during the pandemic.

And the couple have decided to talk publicly about their personal tragedy to explain why they have included The Lullaby Trust among their chosen charities.

“William will always be part of our lives, and supporting The Lullaby Trust is a way of not only remembering him, but helping other families faced with what happened to us,” says Amanda.

The Lullaby Trust raises awareness of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), provides expert advice, and offers emotional support for bereaved families.

Chris has served as a trustee of the charity, while also backing a campaign to change old-fashioned views surrounding grieving fathers.

“When something like this happened in decades gone by, the father’s feelings tended to be forgotten,” he says. “Men were expected to bottle up their feelings but, thankfully, society has come a long way in understanding that fathers have feelings too.”

To this day, Amanda continues to volunteer for The Lullaby Trust, acting as a befriender, and manning a helpline, so she can draw on her own experience to help other grieving mums.

“When William died, I had counselling and was befriended by another mum who’d lost a baby, so I want to do the same,” she explains. “It’s hard because it inevitably brings it all back, but it’s rewarding at the same time.”

In addition, the couple are now determined to make the most of their Mayoral year by fundraising for the charity, and promoting its priceless work. Chris is also focusing on dementia, youth unemployment, and health and well-being projects.

“Back in 1991, we were just a young couple, in our first house, starting out on our careers, and you never expect something like that to shatter everything,” says Chris. “At the time, you’re so consumed with grief that you think you’ll never get through it. It might sound a cliché, but time really is a great healer.”

The couple’s second child, Jessica, was born a year later and is now 28. She was followed by Olivia 26, and Rose, 19.

“Having Jessica so quickly was a huge help and we’re lucky to have three beautiful girls,” says Amanda.

The couple's lives have also been lit up by Olivia giving them two grandchildren: Theo, three, and one-year-old Holly.

But William, pictured bottom left, will never be far from the family’s thoughts, with annual visits to tend to his headstone in West End Cemetery, in Newcastle.

“You never know what’s round the corner, so it’s always a reminder of how important it is to enjoy your loved ones, do meaningful things, and spend time making special memories,” says Amanda.

It’s a message that’s especially pertinent in these uncertain times.

  • To support the Mayor's fundraising campaign, go to:

MAYORS come and go and, in my book, Tom Nutt was one of Darlington’s best.

Darlington’s Mayor in 2015-16, Tom has an admirable track record, not least in his invaluable devotion to town twinning, arranging international trips for local youngsters, and welcoming overseas groups to County Durham.

He has also been a member of Darlington Rotary for ten years, taking part in charity bike rides, recycling Christmas trees, loading medical supplies to Africa, and marshalling the Darlington 10k run.

Tom has now published his autobiography, entitled “Do You Know Who I Was?” and it is a delightful compilation of stories from his early life, career as a customs and excise officer, time as a councillor and Mayor, and love of horse racing.

The Northern Echo:

My own favourite memory from Tom’s time as Mayor was him asking me for an idea for an event linked his passion for internationalism. The result was a Junior Eurovision Song Contest, featuring 22 schools performing at the Hippodrome Theatre.

It has been a highlight of Darlington’s cultural calendar ever since and it is a joy to be compere.

In the book, Tom tells of the time, he and the Mayoress, his wife Gill, were visiting a local school and he got into a conversation with a seven-year-old boy.

The Mayor asked him where he lived, and the young lad told him the name of his street. In order to continue the conversation, The Mayor asked: “Where’s that?”

“You should know that – you’re the Mayor,” came the abrupt reply.

Congratulations on the book, Tom, and thank you for enriching the lives of so many young people.

  • Copies of 'Do You Know Who I Was?' cost £9.99 and, for every copy sold, £1 will be donated to the Family Help Darlington charity. Contact Tom Nutt at

DOMINIC Cummings has left 10 Downing Street through the front door, carrying a large box.

I asked on Twitter for suggestions about what was in the box. Answers included the £350m falsely promised to the NHS if Brexit went ahead; council tax demands; letters of thanks from the Barnard Castle tourism office; and the class gerbil.

My money's on a year-long supply of contact lenses.

The Northern Echo:

FINALLY, whining Donald Trump has been photographed with grey hair, rather than his usual dyed blonde look.

I reckon that's how nature reacts if you keep stamping your foot, shouting: "It's not fair."