Widespread tributes have been paid this week to Councillor Zandra Elliot following her death on Saturday afternoon.
Flags have flown at half-mast at the town hall and Scottish Borders Council headquarters in St Boswells since Monday in tribute to a woman who was widely regarded as the town’s ‘First Lady’.
Zandra was without doubt one of Hawick’s bright-eyed daughters and her death at 73 will leave a glaring gap in the lives of her family, political colleagues and many Hawick folk who knew and respected her.
Mrs Elliot – who served three terms as provost and was a Scottish Borders Tory Councillor for the last seven years – collapsed 10 days ago while chairing a meeting of Hawick Common Good Fund.
She was taken to Borders General Hospital and then to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary where she underwent major heart surgery to repair a leaking aorta.
She was in the hospital’s high dependency unit, but following a relapse, she died on Saturday afternoon.
One of Zandra’s closest political allies and a friend for over half-a-century, fellow Tory councillor George Turnbull, spoke this week of a woman he counted as one his “few true friends” and someone who he would trust “unconditionally”.
“I knew Zandra for over 50 years. We became very good friends not just through politics but through business, social events, rugby, the community council, the Common-Riding, and after three attempts, Zandra became a fellow Scottish Borders Councillor.”
Mr Turnbull added: “Zandra was as sharp as a tack, witty, compassionate, trustworthy and committed to what she believed in. She did her best for her constituents and she was an excellent ambassador for Hawick.
“There are so many memories that I will cherish of Zandra but one in particular came in July 2009 when the Turnbull Clan monument was unveiled. I remember walking along the street behind the pipe band arm in arm with Zandra and she was beaming and looked spectacular in her cerise outfit which was quiet stunning.
“In life we only have a few true friends that you would trust unconditionally. I have had the privilege of Zandra as one of my true friends through both good and bad times. Zandra was a very special lady in my life and I will miss her greatly.”
Independent councillor and current provost Stuart Marshall was also keen to pay tribute to Mrs Elliot.
And this week he spoke of her passion and never-ending sense of duty towards Hawick and its people.
He said: “This is a terribly sad time for Zandra’s family and indeed our town. I am totally numb, and everyone’s hearts are pretty full at the moment.
“Zandra was an outstanding ambassador in her role as honorary provost and to be elected to this position thrice showed the respect and high esteem in which she was held. She was also a great servant to Hawick Common-Riding Committee and thoroughly enjoyed her role. Her opinion was always valued.”
Mr Marshall once asked Zandra if she ever considered putting her feet up? She replied in typical feisty Zandra fashion by saying: “Stuart when you get tired of working for the town then it’s time to retire.”
Mr Marshall rounded off by saying: “She never did tire of serving Hawick and its folk. There isn’t a lot I can add to that really.”
The town’s sole Lib Dem Councillor Ron Smith, who followed Zandra as honorary provost, said he’ll miss her and that she played a leading role in Hawick life right to the end.
“This is a sad time. Zandra had given so much to Hawick already but was playing an active part for the town up to the very moment of her collapse.
“She was a fierce defender of the traditions and the status of the town, and she carried out her role as provost with much grace and poise and her preparation for events was meticulous.
“As her successor as provost, I would hear representatives of other Border towns regularly speak of the respect they had for Zandra.
“She was a perfect ambassador for Hawick, always keen to ensure its status as the Queen o’ a’ the Borders.
“Zandra gave many years of service to the community in Hawick. Zandra had style. I will miss her.”
Independent councillor Davie Paterson was quick to put any political differences to one side in his tribute to Mrs Elliot.
Hawick’s longest serving member said: “It would be fair to say that Zandra and I had our differences but that all seems unimportant at this time. She will be missed and I feel terribly sad for her family.
“She was a popular and well liked provost. Zandra was at the forefront of things in Hawick and she will be missed.”
SNP Councillor Alistair Cranston added: “I have known Zandra since her family lived in Cheviot Road.
“She was the epitome of good manners, straight talking and good humour which was delivered with a clear accent suited to whoever she was speaking to at the time.
“She remained absolutely in control of what she said and did so up until last week’s tragic events.
“I wish Zandra’s family and friends my very sincere and warm remembrances of this truly wonderful Hawick lady.”
n A book of remembrance will be available for anyone wishing to sign it at the contact centre in the town hall from today (Friday) until Friday, March 7.
n ZANDRA’S funeral service will take place at Teviot Parish Church this morning (Friday) at 11.30am. This will be followed by a private cremation at the Borders Crematorium.