A former Portadown woman has been appointed Mayor of the Northumberland county town of Morpeth.
Alison Byard (formerly Steen) is the daughter of Wilson and Beryl Steen of Upper Church Lane. And on Monday she is off to Runnymede for the 800th anniversary of the Signing of the Magna Carta, where the Queen will preside over the grand ceremony.
Said Alison, “It’s a wonderful start to my term as Mayor. Dignitaries from all over England will be there. I’m looking forward to the entire year, especially the fact that I’m due to abseil down Cathedral Gorge in the Lake District for my nominated charity – the local Great Air Ambulance which costs £2,500 for every flight.”
Although she has lived in the north-east for several years Alison’s accent has lost none of its Ulster timbre. “Local politics in Morpeth – indeed all over the north-east – are rather different from home,” she said. “It’s purely community-based, with eight of our 15 councillors being Lib-Dem and the rest a smattering of Independents, Greens and others.”
The Steen family originally lived in Dungannon, moved to Bleary and then to Portadown in 1984. Alison was educated at Friends’ School, Lisburn, after which she graduated from Leeds University, her subjects being Fine Arts, French and German. She added a secretarial qualification from Armagh ‘Tech’ after which she worked for the Arts Theatre and the Bank of Ireland
She met her husband Steve while at Leeds, and they both landed high-powered jobs in the pharmaceutical business in the north-east, Steve as a microbiologist and Alison in the export division with her linguistic skills.
They have a son and a daughter – James (15) and Katie (13) – and after they were born, Alison became a full-time mother.
Her political career was prompted when a Lim-Dem canvasser called at the door, appealing for votes and members.
She was made her Deputy Mayor last year and Mayor two weeks ago, with Steve her official ‘Mayor’s Escort’.