Councillor and champion of Hawick

Councillor and champion of Hawick

Born: May 9, 1940; Died: February 22, 2014.

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Zandra Elliot, who has died aged 73, was a former model, councillor, campaigner and a staunch supporter of the Borders town of Hawick. She was its former provost and a serving member on Scottish Borders Council.

Given her devotion to the Auld Grey Toon, it was perhaps inevitable that when Mrs Elliot was taken ill, she was fulfilling her democratic role as a Scottish Borders councillor by attending a meeting of the Hawick Common Good Fund in the Town Hall.

The tributes to her from all political persuasions indicated the respect in which she was held both personally and professionally.

Her three terms of office as Hawick Provost coincided with a difficult period in the town's economic history, in particular with large scale redundancies in the textile trade, but as the figurehead of the community, she never avoided commenting on the situation or tackling the major issues of the day.

She was also always keen to talk up the virtues of Hawick even in the times of strife which endeared her to so many of her townspeople.

A war baby born in 1940, Alexandra Pringle Hogg was born and brought up in a council house in Hawick's west end with her younger sister Annie.

Educated at Trinity Primary and Hawick High, the young Zandra won school prizes for her poetry recitations and, encouraged by her maternal grandfather Sandy Pringle, developed an abiding affection of the works of Robert Burns.

Armed with shorthand and typing skills, she left school and took a job in the correspondence office of the world famous knitwear brand Pringle of Scotland in Hawick. When she was 17, her mill career took an unexpected and glamorous turn when she was asked by her bosses at Pringle if she would model for the company. Her mother was an accomplished dressmaker and the attractive and photogenic Zandra had a great love of fashion and jumped at the opportunity. She was sent to train at a London model agency which resulted in her appearing at fashion shows and photo shoots across the country.

In a recent interview, she recalled: "The knitwear industry was booming and it was such an exciting time. I was happy to be modelling beautiful garments made in my home town. I met some really interesting people on my travels and loved my time on the catwalk."

However, her roots were still in Hawick and after a six-year courtship with architect Ian Elliot, the couple were married at St Mary's Church in 1962.

When Ian joined his family's building firm of J&R Elliot, his wife followed him into the construction industry.

"I did not go into the business to be a pen pusher," she said. "I wanted to learn everything about the industry, I wanted to meet the architects, learn how to make estimates and measure up jobs. It was a steep learning curve but I was determined."

When her husband died in 1990, Mrs Elliot took over the business performing the roles of finance director and company secretary for more than two decades.

In addition to being a staunch advocate and lobbyist for the Borders construction sector, she entered local politics having cut her teeth on Hawick Community Council in the 1970s.

She was chairwoman of Hawick Community Council in 2003 when she was also appointed the town's honorary provost. She served three terms in the role and when she stood down in 2011, her successor, Liberal Democrat councillor Ron Smith, acknowledged the way she had represented Hawick, saying: "She has brought a great deal of credit to the town."

In 2003, she stood as the Conservative candidate for the Weensland area of Hawick in the Scottish Borders Council elections but was defeated by Independent Kenny McCartney.

In 2007 she tried again in the new three-member ward of Hawick and Denholm and was comfortably elected, polling more first preference votes than any of her opponents.

She was re-elected as a councillor in 2012 and had most recently served on the council's appeals panel, audit committee, joint consultative group for staff and economic development group. She also chaired Hawick Common Good Fund Sub-Committee.

The tributes to Councillor Elliot since her passing last Saturday have been numerous and sincere. Always immaculately dressed and enduringly polite, she commanded the respect of both party colleagues and political opponents.

Councillor Michelle Ballantyne, leader of the Conservative group, described Mrs Elliot as a kind and honourable lady who valued integrity in politics. The Conservative MSP for Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire John Lamont also said Mrs Elliot had given him invaluable support.

Her political opponents at Newtown St Boswells were also warm with their tributes. Councillor Catriona Bhatia, who leads the Liberal Democrats at Scottish Borders Council, said Mrs Elliot had been dedicated in her work to protect the town's common good fund.

Independent councillor Stuart Marshall, who served in the same Hawick and Denholm ward, spoke at Mrs Elliot's funeral. "She was a very elegant lady and her attention to detail was something that always impressed me. She went round all the Common Ridings in the Borders and everyone loved her and she always wanted to know where people came from."

Mrs Elliot was pre-deceased by her husband.