An avid autograph collector who sent Christmas cards to the Pope, the Queen and the Prime Minister has been elected chairman of Warwick District Council.
Cllr Neale Murphy (Con, Warwick Myton and Heathcote) - known to fellow councillors as Spud - takes over from Cllr Martyn Ashford (Con, Warwick Aylesford) following a vote at the annual meeting of the council on Wednesday (May 5) which was held virtually.
Cllr Murphy thanked councillors for their support, adding: “It is a great privilege and great honour and hopefully I can do my best to keep Warwick District Council going and in the news.”
He added that he had chosen the British Heart Foundation as his adopted charity for the coming 12 months to ‘carry on the good work of the previous chairman’.
In proposing Cllr Murphy, Cllr Mary Noone (Con, Warwick Myton and Heathcote) explained that the new chairman - who was Mayor of Warwick in 2019/20 - would bring his own sense of fashion to the role.
She said: “Before I met Neale I used to think councillors were like Hyacinth Bucket in Keeping Up Appearances, wearing a twin set and pearls.
"But Neale couldn’t be more different - wearing a t-shirt and shorts and driving a white van. He is a little bit more like Onslow, Hyacinth’s brother-in-law, who was a bit wild in his youth but has mellowed with age and, despite appearances, is a gentle soul underneath a rugged exterior.”
And she explained how he started his collection of signed photographs after joining the Navy aged 17.
“He once told me a story about being far away from home one Christmas and feeling a little lonely so he decided to send Christmas cards to famous people.
"He sent cards to Ronald Reagan, Mikhaeil Gorbachev, Pope John Paul, Margaret Thatcher and the Queen. He was delighted when the Queen sent him a letter of thanks and the others sent him signed photographs.
“He has now built up a collection of hundreds of photos and one of these was from Bruce Willis.
"He heard that Bruce was going through a difficult divorce so he wrote to him, sympathising and asked for a photo. He finished his letter by telling Bruce that if he ever came to England he should get in touch and that he would take him out for a few drinks to cheer him up.
"He was astonished when Bruce replied saying that if he was ever in California to look him up and he would buy Neale a drink.”
Cllr Tony Heath (Ind, Whitnash) - who was first elected to the council in 1983 - was elected deputy chairman.