Tributes paid to long standing councillor and former mayor who welcomed Mandela to town

Carole Ellis with  Nelson Mandela during his visit to Bedford  in 2000.
Carole Ellis with Nelson Mandela during his visit to Bedford in 2000.

A former Bedford mayor who welcomed Nelson Mandela to the town has died following a long illness.

Councillor Carole Ellis announced in October last year that she had been diagnosed with a malignant brain tumour.

The long standing member of Bedford Borough Council and former Conservative group leader passed away on Sunday.

She was first elected to the council in 1991, representing Great Barford Ward, and was a member of a number of council committees, chairing many of them including licensing, corporate services and the standards committee.

Mrs Ellis was the Civic Mayor from 1999 to 2000, during which time she led a team that met with Nelson Mandela when he visited the town to unveil the bust of his friend and anti-apartheid activist, Archbishop Trevor Huddleston.

One of the highlights of the day for Mrs Ellis was dancing with Mandela and local schoolchildren on the corner of Silver Street.

The popular councillor was also well-known as an influential fundraiser for a range of charities including; Headways, the Heart Unit at Bedford Hospital and Willington Riding for the Disabled.

Chief executive of Bedford Borough Council Philip Simpkins said: “It was with great sadness that I learned that Carole had died. Those who knew her were aware that she had been unwell for some time but this still comes as a very great loss for us all here let alone her family and our thoughts are with them at this sad time.”

The council will be flying its flag at half mast on the day of Mrs Ellis’ funeral, which is being held on Thursday, December 18 from 2.30pm at Great Barford Church, and there will be a minute’s silence and an opportunity for tributes at the next full council meeting.