Nelson Mandela’s ‘magical’ visit to Bedford

As the world bids farewell to global icon Nelson Mandela we take a look at the day the great man visited Bedford.

Friday, 6th December 2013, 7:00 am
Nelson Mandela visiting Bedford in 2000.

Nelson Mandela, who died on Thursday, December 5, was invited to the town by Bedford Borough Council in the year 2000.

On April 7 the world leader, whose fight to end apartheid in South Africa saw him spend 27 years in prison, unveiled a bust of his great friend and fellow activist Trevor Huddleston who was born in Bedford.

On the day crowds lined the streets to great Dr Mandela who was joined by the then Mayor of Bedford Carole Ellis, who still sits on Bedford Borough Council.

Nelson Mandela visiting Bedford in 2000

She said: “He was a magical character and amazing man. I have always been in awe of what he stands for - he is a strong person who is devoted to his country and beliefs.

“His presence made me feel humble and the unveiling of Archbishop Huddleston’s bust was done with much sincere feeling.”

But on the day Dr Mandela also took time to acknowledge the crowds of people who gathered along the High Street to catch a glimpse of the living legend.

Mrs Ellis said: “I cannot describe the atmosphere on the day. I remember the Wootton Upper School band played and even though he was 81-years-old at the time that did not stop him dancing with me on the corner of Silver Street.”

b11-117 Nelson Mandela visiting Bedford in 2000. JE wk 4

And following the visit the council bestowed their highest honour on the former South African president, by making him an honorary freeman of the borough.

Mrs Ellis wrote to him on April 18 that year, to tell him of the news after a unanimous vote by councillors.

She said: “This underlined what it meant to the people of Bedford for him to come and visit our town. He is an inspiration to all of us, black or white. It is certainly a day I will never forget.”

Nelson Mandela died in South Africa on December 5, 2013, aged 95.

b11-120 Copies of Times & Citizen Nelson Mandela visit to Bedford in 2000. Wk 5

What are your memories of Nelson Mandela, and his visit to Bedford?

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Nelson Mandela visiting Bedford in 2000.