TOWN MAYOR: Rima Chatterjee
TOWN MAYOR: Rima Chatterjee

RIMA Chatterjee has already made a big impact after only six years in Barney. Well known as the licensee of the Old Well Inn in the town, earlier this year she was re-elected as a town councillor and immediately voted in as town mayor.

“It was quite a shock,” says Rima, whose mayor’s charity is Quinns Retreat, providing respite for the bereaved.

Born into a “big, close-knit, very supportive” family in Calcutta in 1972 Rima is the middle of three sisters. Her father Shauri was in sales, loved music, food and cooking.

“My dad often cooked for us, which was quite usual in India” says Rima. Her mother Ranu worked in special education and has a masters degree in the field.

“Mum and dad were very supportive when I decided to go into hotel management and hospitality after leaving convent school at 18. Dad in particular encouraged me with cooking,”she says.

Rima attended university in Goa and Calcutta. At 22 she married Roy following a seven-year courtship. “No, it was not an arranged marriage, we met through friends,” laughs Rima. They have two boys, Aayush, now 25, and Aaryav, 20.

The “double-A” names are there for a reason: Indian children are listed in class by their first names, and Rima wanted them to be first!

The young family moved to Nigeria when Roy, who was born in Ethiopia and had lived in Kenya, had a good job offer. Then in 2015 came what Rima and Roy hope will be their final move to start again with their own business in Teesdale.

The couple were already familiar with the area after visiting a cousin living in the UK. They even stayed at the grade II-listed Old Well Inn, on The Bank in Barnard Castle, which first gave them the idea of running a pub with bed and breakfast.

“We were looking to buy a B&B/pub here in the UK. Imagine our surprise when we saw the Old Well was available to lease, and we jumped at the chance to buy the business,” says Rima.

“After overcoming a whole load of bureaucracy with visas and so forth, it was still a steep learning curve for us,” says Rima.

“They upgraded the premises with new furnishings and fittings, a much-improved beer garden and seven en-suite rooms.

The Chatterjees look set to be a fixture here for many years to come.

By Chris Foote-Wood