'No matter where you come from, you can come to the top in Yarmouth'

Arts Festival chairman, Hugh Sturzaker, left, and Mayor Michael Jeal leads the Arts Festival Carniva

Mayor Michael Jeal leads the Arts Festival Carnival parade at Great Yarmouth. He has delivered an emotional speech about never giving up wherever you come from Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2019

An outgoing mayor has delivered an inspirational and emotional speech about always aiming high no matter where you come from.

Speaking at Great Yarmouth Borough Council's first in-person meeting since February last year an emotional Michael Jeal stressed that anyone who had a difficult start in life could still achieve great things in his home town.

Having held the civic role for a rare three terms he recounted how he was born in 1953 just a stone's throw from the town hall where he stood wearing the chains of office.

His mother was from North Shields and his father from Coronation Terrace. After the famous floods the family retreated to the north where Mr Jeal and his sister, then aged five and six, were taken into care and did not see their parents again for many years.

"It has been hard," he said.

Michael Jeal will carry on for another year as mayor of Great Yarmouth after the annual ceremony tha

Outgoing mayor Michael Jeal appeared emotional addressing the council at its first in-person full council meeting on May 25, 2021. - Credit: Archant

"I want people to understand that no matter where you come from, you can come to the top in Yarmouth."

He recounted how he had returned to Yarmouth in 1971 working as a nursing assistant at the St Nicholas Hospital before going on to spend 30 years as a firefighter.

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Retirement, however, meant more work with the charity First Move Furnishaid and he hailed the council for its support.

He entered local politics in 1986, having served the Nelson ward continuously since then.

He added: "If you can come from where I came from to be the mayor of Great Yarmouth three times anything is possible, so do not give up hope."

After thanking council leader Carl Smith for giving him an historic third term as mayor he said he hoped his successor Sue Hacon would have "the best term of office any councillor has every had."

During the meeting held in the town hall's Assembly Room fellow Nelson ward councillor Kerry Robinson Payne hailed Mr Jeal's contribution.

She praised his "outstanding conduct" and said that what he had achieved in his life was "a personal triumph."

At the meeting it was announced Carl Smith would continue in his role as council leader with Graham Plant as deputy leader.

The deputy mayor was announced as Adrian Thompson.

Mr Jeal's speech came on the day it was revealed  he had been suspended by the Labour group while an investigation was underway, and would sit as an independent until the issue was resolved.