How a talent for golf led to David Allaway becoming a police chief, then guardian of the Mayoral secrets - and why he had to handcuff his own dad... 

AS he looks forward to a well-earned retirement after a 45-year career in public service, David Allaway reflects on how much his golf swing has influenced his direction in life.

Had it not been for his golfing prowess, he might never have been enticed into the police before going on to be the man entrusted with the secrets of the Mayor’s Parlour in Darlington.

He was just 18 when his distinguished public service began – but it had a lot more to do with a knack for bagging birdies than a desire to catch burglars.

He’d started playing at Darlington Golf Club when he was 13 and progressed to a handicap of just four within 18 months. He was off scratch by the time he was 17, and happened to be paired one day with a senior detective from Durham Constabulary.

“Have you ever thought about joining the police?” asked the impressed officer. “We could do with you on the golf team.”

It was the defining moment of David’s life because, within months, he was a signed-up copper.

His love of golf had come from his dad, who is fondly remembered for owning Henry’s hairdresser’s shop up North Road, in Darlington, for 53 years.

Henry Allaway had also been assistant professional at Darlington Golf Club before the war, and one of his proudest moments was when his son became 1977 club champion.

Knowing how excitable his dad was, David was moved to take rather extreme action to keep the old man out of the way during a tense 18-hole play-off.

“I played the classic trick of asking him the time and then handcuffing him to the radiator in the clubhouse,” he recalls.

Poor old Henry was only released when young David was coming up the 18th, four shots clear of his rival.

When he wasn’t playing golf, David spent the early part of his police career in the underwater search unit and it had its murky moments – like the time he was sent on the end of a rope into the depths of Hartlepool Marina in search of a sextant compass that had gone missing from a boat.

When he returned to the surface, covered in thick, black gunge, he noticed a gang of local children were running away and screaming. They’d come over, curious to know what was happening, and were informed by the other cops that they’d caught a gruesome sea monster.

Despite that monstrous beginning, David rose to through the ranks and became area inspector in Teesdale before retiring in 2004 and being offered the job of Darlington’s Mayoral Support Officer a few months later.

Part of his job was to drive the mayors around the region but it didn’t always work out quite as planned. His first Mayor was Roddy Francis, who had fellow Labour councillor Isobel Hartley as his Mayoress.

Isobel was a terrible back-seat driver and, during a trip to Sunderland, she told David to take what turned out to be a wrong turn, so the mayoral limo ended up in a car wash.

There was also the time Prince Andrew was on an official engagement in Darlington. Having used David’s favourite fountain pen to sign the official record book that sits outside the Mayor’s Parlour, the Prince was about to leave.

“Sir, could I please have my pen back?” David asked His Royal Highness. You see, it doesn’t matter who it is – no-one gets away with anything with David Allaway.

Having kept 15 Darlington Mayors on the straight and narrow, his last day in the role will be on June 28. He’ll have clocked up more than 5,000 official functions, and it’s fair to say the Mayoral chains, dating back to 1872, have never been in safer hands.

Having been Darlington born and bred as a Greenbank Maternity Hospital baby, with mum Jean a Whessoe worker and stalwart of St Andrew’s Church, it’s a job that’s given him immense pride.

“It really has been an honour to have played a part in the history of my home town,” he says.

Asked for his highlights, his mind immediately flicks back to 2010 when thousands turned out to see the 3rd Battalion The Rifles being awarded the Freedom of the Borough of Darlington. It followed a six-month tour of Afghanistan in which 30 of its members were killed.

“That was a special day,” says David.

So was the occasion, a year later, when he was on duty as the future Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, was handed a 13th century falchion on Croft Bridge to become the new Bishop of Durham.

“It was torrential rain but it stopped just before the ceremony, and started again as soon as it was over – divine intervention if ever I saw it,” he recalls.

He adds: “I’ve loved seeing history unfold and meeting so many incredible people who keep their communities going in so many different ways.

“But most of all, I’ve loved seeing the faces on the children when the Mayor arrives in the chains and brings a sense of occasion to whatever the event may be. It’s a tradition we must never lose.”

At 64, he’s decided it’s time for someone else to work on the chain gang, so he can spend more time with his “good lady” – Delia, his wife of 23 years.

She too is a keen golfer and it’s a fair bet that they’ll be devoting a lot more time to the game that teed up a colourful career in public service.