Warm reception from new council chief

When you've worked as a receptionist at both a doctor's surgery and the vet's in your home town the likelihood is you probably know just about every resident.

When you've worked as a receptionist at both a doctor's surgery and the vet's in your home town the likelihood is you probably know just about every resident.

Eileen Springall, new chair of Aylsham Town Council, was behind the desk at the Market Place Surgery for many years and still helps out occasionally at Oakes vet's from where she retired nearly three years ago.

Born in 1947, Eileen's twin brother died aged 16 months. She grew up in Dereham where her father ran a small haulage business and her mother was a dressmaker; a skill she inherited and has put to use making costumes for Aylsham's Shining Lights young performers' group productions.

Eileen was a boarder at Wymondham College and her first job was with travel firm Thomas Cook's at their London headquarters. But she didn't care for London life and took another job with the firm in Ipswich, later switching to the Trustee Savings Bank in Norwich.


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While on a bank outing she met her future husband Mike and, after their marriage, they travelled to Zambia where Mike helped the newly-independent country set up its own PAYE system.

Daughter Dawn and son Mark were born in Africa. Dawn, who now lives in Austria, was to become a Norfolk tennis champion and Mark has just returned from a second Afghanistan tour as a helicopter technician with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.

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Although Africa was a 'wonderful experience,' Eileen says she was happy to return to Norfolk and, after their five-and-a-half year tour, the family settled in Aylsham where their youngest child, Jo, was born. She is married to Heart radio presenter Rob Chandler.

Once Jo was five, Eileen resumed her working career and eventually spent over 10 years at the former Norfolk and Norwich Hospital where she rose to become manageress of out-patient receptionists.

Eileen has immersed herself in Aylsham life, becoming a governor at the high school where two of her six grandchildren are pupils, and she and Mike are also active members of the town's twinning association which this summer will celebrate the 10th anniversary of its link with La Chauss�e-Saint-Victor, in France.

She joined Aylsham Town Council seven years ago and has great admiration for her fellow councillors who she says are genuine and hardworking.

'There are no perks nowadays,' she said. 'You don't become a councillor to further your own interests. You do it because you're interested in helping the town.'

What's the best thing about Aylsham?

'The friendliness of the people.'

…and the worst?

'Our traffic problems.'

Favourite book, film and TV programme?

Book: Philippa Gregory's 'Boleyn' books. Film: Ghost. TV: The Thin Blue Line.

Favourite place in Norfolk?

'The halls at Blickling and Oxburgh.'

What piece of music means most to you?

'The Old Rugged Cross.'

Describe yourself in three words.

'Happy, contented, lucky.'

Tescos in north Norfolk towns - good or bad?

'I won't sit on the fence. I think they're good. Many people need a place they can drive to and do all their shopping.'

In what other era would you have liked to have lived?

'Elizabethan - I would have liked wearing those dresses.'

What's the best thing so far invented by man?

'The telephone. Where would lonely and frightened people be without it?'

Pet hates?

'Being taken for granted.'

What do you eat for a treat?

'Ice cream.'

What have your parents given you?

'My father showed me how to see the funny side of life.'

Hero/heroine?

'Simon Weston (the Falklands War hero who suffered 46pc burns when the Sir Galahad was destroyed). Instead of hiding away because he's badly disfigured, he tries to help others which I think is an amazing quality to have.'

If you could introduce one change in Aylsham what would it be?

'I would build a really lovely sports pavilion on the Rec.'

Your greatest fear?

'Blindness.'

Global warming - myth or reality?

'Things are changing and I'm sure man is having an effect but I'm not clever enough to know whether it's being exaggerated.'

Tell me something about yourself which might surprise people?

'I believe in ghosts.'

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