'Dad would have been so proud' says Barnard Castle's new mayor
By Trevor Brookes - Editor
BARNARD Castle’s new mayor has told how her appointment would have been “so special” to her late father who died this month in India's Covid crisis.
Cllr Rima Chatterjee says she has been overwhelmed by the number of messages she has received from well-wishers since she became mayor last week.
But one message is missing – that from her father, Shauri, who died from Covid on May 5 at his home city of Calcutta aged 78.
Cllr Chatterjee, who is well-known in Barnard Castle as the Old Well’s landlady, said: “If this would have happened a month ago, it would have been so special to him. But he'll be looking down from somewhere. What is meant to be, is meant to be.”
She said her parents would have been the first people she’d have called after receiving the honour.
“It’s so difficult as I haven’t been able to go back to India,” said Cllr Chatterjee, who hopes to see her mother, Ranu, as soon as its possible. She said her parents were thrilled when they visited Barney previously. Cllr Chatterjee moved to Barnard Castle five years ago to take over the Old Well, on the Bank, with husband Roy. They have two sons – Aayush, who is living in India, and Aaryau who lives in town.
The family had previously spent ten years in Lagos, Nigeria. They are originally from Calcutta.
Cllr Chatterjee, who was re-elected on the council this month, said: “It’s been really overwhelming – I was quite surprised to see the messages on social media after I became mayor. I thought maybe I had overstepped the boundaries but the support from the town has been wonderful. It makes me feel that I'm okay being mayor.
“In fact, from the beginning, we have been made to feel so welcome. I've never felt out of place here. I now aim to do my bit and my best for the town.”
As landlady of a pub and hotel, she knows how hard the pandemic has hit businesses.
“It’s just a nightmare that won't end. But we are lucky here in Barnard Castle and we're in a better place. I hope we can keep that going and get out of this as soon as we can because everybody has suffered horrendously. I hope we at the town council can help,” she said.
The Chatterjees have already put their words into action during the pandemic after cooking up hundreds of free pasta lunches for children doing home learning.
The new mayor hopes to encourage the town to become more eco-friendly by helping to reduce the number of plastic bags in the town.
She also hopes the town council can work with young people to make sure they have a greater say.
“But it’s early days so we’ll have to see what we can do,” said Cllr Chatterjee, who says transport links to Barnard Castle need to be improved.
She says Dominic Cummings’ visit will provide a great opportunity for town businesses.
“Mr Cummings has helped us – there’s no such thing as bad publicity,” she added.