A FORMER Barnard Castle mayor and serving town councillor has died after a short illness.

Councillor Margaret Hamilton, 88, wore the civic chains from 2001-2003 and again from 2006-07.

She was born in Whitby, the eldest of three daughters, and spent much of her childhood in India, where her soldier father was stationed.

The family returned to the UK shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War and after leaving school, Coun Hamilton worked in a bank before marrying her husband Guy in 1951, the couple setting up home in Aberdeen.

After his death in 1978, Coun Hamilton moved back to Whitby to be closer to her family, and then to Barnard Castle in 1990.

She was well into her 60s when she entered public service. She was co-opted onto the town council in 1997 and subsequently re-elected at three town council elections.

While a town councillor, she also served on Teesdale District Council and was the authority's last chairman before its abolition in 2009.

A Barnard Castle Town Council spokesman said: “She was the unofficial Mother of the House and worked very hard to protect the ethos of public service.

“Margaret used the benefits of her years of public service to take new councillors under her wing and to support those new to the vagaries of local democracy.”

He added: “She was not shy of getting directly involved in delivering council services and once acted as a mini-golf attendant in the council’s hour of need.”

Coun Hamilton's daughter, Fiona, said: “She used to go to the meetings out of interest as a member of the public.

“There was a vacancy and it was suggested she should have a go and she did. She really enjoyed her council work.”

At various times, Coun Hamilton represented the town council on Teesdale Marketing, St Mary's Parish Hall Committee and The Witham Hall Management Committee and on at school governing bodies, including Barnard Castle School, until this year.

She led the outcry surrounding proposals to close the Market Place public toilets, including the organisation of a public petition.

She was also one of three councillors who organised events for the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and time as mayor built up good ties with a number of other councils in the area, particularly Richmond.

Coun Hamilton also helped form stronger links between the town council and The Bowes Museum.

The town council spokesman added: “Above all Margaret used a lifetime of knowledge and expertise for the good of Barnard Castle and its people, always there to provide stability, continuity and just plain common sense.”

She was diagnosed with cancer shortly before Christmas and after treatment in the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, was moved to Manor House nursing home in Barnard Castle.

Coun Hamilton is survived by daughter Fiona and two grandchildren. A Thanksgiving Service will be held on Friday, February 15, at The Methodist Church, Scar Top, Barnard Castle at noon.