Flags fly at half mast and book of condolence opened in tribute to Nelson Mandela

Andrew Evans, funeral director signing the Nelson Mandela book of remembrance.
Andrew Evans, funeral director signing the Nelson Mandela book of remembrance.

THE death of Nelson Mandela has touched the people of Hartlepool – with a council flag flying at half-mast and a book of remembrance being opened at a town funeral home.

Hartlepool Borough Council leaders decided to mark the death of South Africa’s first black president, who died on Thursday at the age of 95, by flying its flag at half mast.

Yesterday Victoria House Funeral Home, in Victoria Road, Hartlepool, opened a book of remembrance and invited people to go along and sign it.

English Martyrs School and Sixth Form College marked the icon’s death with a mass for staff and students that was dedicated to him and his life.

Carl Mean, funeral director at Victoria House, said: “We were obviously saddened to hear the news of Nelson Mandela and we thought it might be an opportunity for people to sign a book of remembrance here.

“Over the years I’ve heard of funeral directors opening similar books when Princess Diana died and the Queen Mother.

“We understand Nelson Mandela wasn’t of this country, but he did a lot for the world and was against apartheid – it seemed the right thing to do.”

He added: “Anyone can call in and sign it, we’ll have it open for about two weeks.

“Once we close the book we’ll forward it to the South African High Commission, 
in Trafalgar Square, in London.”

Michael Lee, headteacher at English Martyrs, in Catcote Road, Hartlepool, said: “We had a mass which we dedicated to Nelson Mandela and we said a prayer for him. He has been remarkable in his capacity for forgiveness and that was the theme of the service.

“He’s been somebody who’s lived in our times and we are unlikely to see his kind again in our lifetime.”

He added: “We hold him up as a role model for our students, so his death is something that we would want to mark in some way.”

Darren Hankey, principal of Hartlepool College of Further Education, in Stockton Street, said the college was flying its flag at half mast in tribute to him.

Mr Mandela’s photograph had been placed on the respect board inside the building, and there is a one-minute’s silence planned for staff and students on Monday.

Mr Mandela died at home surrounded by family at his home in Johannesburg.

Hartlepool Borough Council’s ceremonial mayor, Councillor Stephen Akers-Belcher, and town MP Iain Wright joined in global tributes, hailing Mr Mandela as “inspirational” and one of the world’s greatest statesmen.

Nobel Peace Prize winner Mr Mandela, who will receive a state funeral with flags flown at half-mast, had campaigned against white-only rule.

He was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1964, but was released in 1990 as South Africa began to move away from strict racial segregation.