There will be warm accolades for Swindon’s mayor and mayoress Rex and Sandra Barnett on mayor making day 20 May at the civic offices, whether they are able to attend or not.
During their year in office, they managed to fit in over 500 engagements and raised a spectacular £68,744, during the year, the most by any Swindon mayor and mayoress.
Rex spent time in hospital in late March and early April with what he thought was a chest infection related to asthma. Sadly he was diagonosed with epitheloioid mesothelioma, the asbestos related cancer contracted by many men who worked in Swindon’s railway works. He was due to have his first session of chaemotherapy on 19 May and may be too tired by the experience to attend Swindon’s big civic day.
Rex, 72, was the last in a long line of Swindon mayors who spent time in the factory, starting as an apprentice in 1953. He specialised as a plumber until he was made redundant in 1961. In speeches during his mayorship he would often make references to his time in the works and sometimes told the story how he was given responsibility for ensuring that the toilet in the royal train being fitted out in Swindon was well insulated against extraneous noise.
“I was stunned when the medics gave me the news that mesothelioma was on my lungs,” said Rex, who has lived in Haydon Wick all his life. “It’s incurable but we are going to try and slow it down. I wanted to start the chemotherapy as soon as possible.”
Rex and Sandra raised money for three principal charities – Prospect Hospice, Willows Counselling Service and CALM, Swindon Children’s Cancer & Leukaemia Movement. They will have a share of £50,477.
They also lent their support to a wide range of other projects and responded to appeals to raise money for disasters around the world since May 2010. These ranged from the Pakistan Flood Appeal, the Japan Tsunami fund, Goldenhar Support, Swindon Sea Scouts, Swindon Mela, 633 Squadron West Swindon Air Training Corp and the Green Hut project.
Rex said, “it’s been an absolutely fantastic year. Sandra and I have met so many wonderful people doing so much incredible work in our community. We discovered what a truly vibrant, caring place Swindon is.
“It’s a town we are very proud to live in. Everybody should be equally proud. We’ve had such a brilliant year; now we’re starting another journey.”
Pictured above, Rex and Sandra choosing the winners from entries by members of Swindon Photographic Society to the Mayor of Swindon’s image competition. Below, Rex and Sandra at the Oliver Tomkins Primary School royal wedding street party on 28 May with party organiser Kate Rowe and headteacher Rhian Cockwell