Fond memories shared at funeral of the only woman to have led Wellingborough Council

Eileen Higgins
Eileen Higgins

Family, friends and colleagues gathered to say their final goodbyes to an honorary freeman who served on Wellingborough Council for more than 30 years.

The funeral of Eileen Higgins, who died at the age of 85 on May 13, took place at Nene Valley Crematorium in Wellingborough today (Tuesday).

Eileen served on Wellingborough Council for more than three decades, which included a period as leader of the authority and the role of mayor on two occasions.

But as well as her civic life, her family shared their memories of Eileen as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother during the service.

They spoke of her love of baking, with family favourites including her caramel squares and the family-sized pork pie they enjoyed at Christmas.

As well as being dedicated to baking, they said she was dedicated to her work and her family and friends.

They also reflected on her love of village life in Wollaston.

The Reverend Michael Hogg, who is pastor at Wollaston Baptist Church, led today’s service and said it was a ‘real joy’ to have known Eileen.

Friend and fellow councillor Tom Partridge-Underwood said he felt privileged to be asked to give the eulogy by Eileen’s family.

He recalled the time Eileen refused to buy a new hat when the Queen was coming to Wellingborough Station, with pictures of the back of her head appearing in the then Evening Telegraph wearing a borrowed hat.

And the time she met Theresa May, then Home Secretary, who she took to Nene Court in the town for some light refreshments.

Cllr Partridge-Underwood spoke of Eileen’s various passions, including for education, for theatre, for young people with learning difficulties and for young people’s uniformed organisations.

He also said she loved Wellingborough’s twinning links with Niort and Wittlich.

Reflecting on her political life, Eileen joined Wollaston Parish Council in 1983 and was elected as a borough councillor at a by-election in August 1985 to represent Wollaston, Grendon and Strixton for more than 30 years.

She was made honorary freeman of the borough of Wellingborough for her eminent service to the borough, local government and other organisations last year.

She was mayor of the borough twice, both in 1992 and again in 2008.

Cllr Partridge-Underwood said Eileen served on all council committees and sub-committees, and became leader of the council in 2003 for three years.

He said she was the only woman to lead Wellingborough Council and will probably be the only one as the face of local democracy looks set to change in the next few years.

Cllr Partridge-Underwood, who joked that a drop of gin had never touched his lips until he met Eileen, said numerous people had contacted him since Eileen’s death, with many saying she was a highly intelligent woman.

They also fondly remembered her sense of humour.

Donations in memory of Eileen will go to The Daylight Centre in Wellingborough.