Adopted Geordie who 'fell in love' with Newcastle named city's new lord mayor

The newly-appointed sheriff of Newcastle, Henry Gallagher, and lord mayor Rob Higgins (right).
The newly-appointed sheriff of Newcastle, Henry Gallagher, and lord mayor Rob Higgins (right). -Credit:Steve Brock / Newcastle City Council.

Rob Higgins has been appointed as the new lord mayor of Newcastle.

The adopted Geordie, a long-serving councillor who has represented Benwell and Scotswood for 29 years, officially took over as the city’s new first citizen on Wednesday afternoon. He succeeds Veronica Dunn in taking on Newcastle’s highest ceremonial position.

Coun Higgins told colleagues at Newcastle City Council’s annual meeting that, having come to study at what was then known as Newcastle Polytechnic, he had never expected to stay for life but fell in love with Tyneside. Having likened his arrival to the “dark, cold, miserable” city to that of Michael Caine’s character in Get Carter, he added: “I thought I would do my two years and get out of this place.

"But you fall in love with Newcastle and fall in love with the people. Gradually I just grew to love the people so much and thought this was my home, this was where I wanted to stay, this was where I wanted to spend my life. This is where my daughter was born.”

A former probation officer, Coun Higgins has sat on the city council since 1995. While he retains a fondness for his hometown football team of Mansfield Town, he is now a loyal Newcastle United season ticket holder and has travelled the world following England.

His love for sport also extends to rugby league and he is known in the council chamber as a vocal advocate of the Magic Weekend fixtures that have been staged at St James’ Park. He is also a keen walker and cyclist, as well as a champion of green spaces in his ward – particularly the Scotswood Community Garden, which he has chosen as one of three charities that he will fundraise for during his year as lord mayor.

He will also be supporting the Benwell-based older people’s charity Search and the Motor Neurone Disease Association. Coun Higgins’ friend and ward colleague Hazel Stephenson described him as a “people person” who always wants to help anyone he can and was “highly valued” by those he represents.

The new lord mayor added: “It is an honour and privilege to be entrusted with this prestigious civic role which gives me the enormous pride of being able to represent our great city. I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about the responsibilities and the duties that come with the role alongside Veronica these past 12 months, and wish her all the best as she takes a step back from frontline local politics.”

Liberal Democrat Henry Gallager, who represents the Dene and South Gosforth ward, was appointed on Wednesday as the new deputy lord mayor and sheriff of Newcastle.