From the plains of Africa to the Council chamber… meet Cllr Dudley Hughes, ENC’s Chairman

Published Friday, 28 June 2019

In May, Cllr Dudley Hughes was sworn in as the new Chairman for East Northamptonshire Council for the civic year 2019/20, but who is the man behind the chain?

We sat down with Cllr Hughes to find out about his fascinating life and what he hopes to achieve during his year in office.

We hear that you’ve lead quite a varied life, can you tell us a little about your time before you were a Councillor?

I was lucky enough to go to a school which encouraged self-reliance and confidence. Even so when I flew to Rhodesia aged 19 it was with some trepidation. Having been met at the airport we drove 90 miles on strip roads and then 50 miles on a dirt road out to the mission which was to be my home for nearly two years. Apart from teaching students all of whom were older than me, I built a house, learnt about quick drying cement to build a drift across a river, assisted a young woman to have her child in the back of an estate car on the way to the hospital, learnt enough motor mechanics to get a tractor going, and camped with the students in the bush.

After three years of teacher training in the UK, I set off to Ethiopia with my new wife to work in another fantastic place, Addis Ababa. We had horses and rode out in the bush with donkeys carrying our gear and went where few had ventured before. In our VW Beetle, we visited the fabulous rock churches, the castles of Gondar, went to the hottest place in Africa and camped surrounded by game. After three years, I returned to the UK on leave and bought an ex-army Land Rover which we drove with our one year old son in the back through Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Saudi. We slept out under the stars in the Saudi desert, sat outside the mosque in Damascus, ate lunch with friendly Jordanians in their homes and drove along mountain roads in Ethiopia. We were fortunate to meet Ethiopia’s last emperor, Haile Selassie, and attended his daughter’s wedding.

Back in the UK, I taught and studied for my Masters degree. Then my family and I had a fantastic year teaching and travelling through America. We’ve also travelled through Europe with our three children in the back of a VW pop top, visiting the Hungarians plains, seeing the wonders of Italy and stood in WWI trenches. I continue to travel and we’ve climbed Machu Picchu, marvelled at the Taj Mahal, been chased by elephants in Namibia and driven through Cuba.

Back in East Northamptonshire and away from your Chairman duties, how do you spend your time?

Now apart from travel, we are involved in the church, I am Chair of the Nene Education Trust which oversees seven local schools, a trustee of Northamptonshire Music and Performing Arts Trust and Service Six. I am also on the Management Committee for Stanwick Lakes, as well as being an NCC Councillor and on Raunds Town Council.

As a former teacher, what were you like as a pupil at school?

At school, I enjoyed rugby and hockey, won prizes for rifle shooting, got into trouble for advertising my house master’s Armstrong Siddeley car for £250 outside the school for April Fools Day, enjoyed the cadets and played the drums on the front row of the marching band.

You are in quite a unique position in that you were previously ENC Chairman from 2008 - 2009, do you think the role has changed?

The role has changed over the last decade which means there are fewer opportunities to get out and about attending civic events. These events always provide a great opportunity to see first hand the fantastic work being carried out across the district and further afield. But across the next year, I hope I can still get out as much as possible.

What do you hope to achieve in your year in office?

In my year as Chair I would like to meet and visit as many people and places in East Northamptonshire, alongside representing all the good things ENC is doing.

Finally, what stories from your life do you tell your grandchildren about?

I tell them about Africa, America, camping with the scouts, great times on holiday together in the VW, sunsets over the African bush, building a house in Cyprus and meeting interesting people.

I’d also tell them that you often make your own luck by persistence and effort.

To find out what Cllr Hughes is up to, please visit www.east-northamptonshire.gov.uk/chairmansdiary and follow him on Twitter @ENCChairman