THE first mayor of Brighton and Hove has been lovingly remembered for always wanting to “strive for a more fair and just society”.

Betty Walshe, who took office as mayor of the newly created unitary authority in 1997, died aged 89 on December 27.

She died three days after being taken to hospital with a chest infection.

Betty, who was born in East Grinstead, lost her father when she was very young and along with her sister and brother, was sent to an orphanage in Reedham, near Croydon.

She lived there until she was around 13 or 14 before going to work in a shop with her mother.

Betty met her husband Timothy in East Grinstead.

He later served as an airman in the Second World War and getting badly burnt, leaving him needing plastic surgery.

They got married when she was 18 and moved to Chelmsford and started a family.

The couple had four sons, Anthony, Julian, Trevor and Adrian, and they all moved to Crawley in 1961.

Both Betty and Timothy were dedicated members of the Labour Party.

Betty started work in the early 1970s. When she was working as a shop steward, she campaigned for better conditions for her colleagues.

Following the death of her husband in 1983, Betty decided to move to Kemp Town in Brighton and became an active member of Queen’s Park Labour Party during the miners’ strike.

Betty moved to Hove in the late 1980s, becoming increasingly involved in political and community life.

She became a governor for Hangleton Middle School and Carlton Hill School and stood in local elections for the old Hove Borough Council.

After Labour’s influence in Hove spread, the unitary authority of Brighton and Hove was created.

Betty became the chairwoman of the shadow unitary authority in 1996 and was then elected as its first mayor the following year.

She left elected politics in the early to mid 2000s, but was still an active Labour Party member.

After leaving politics, Betty had an urge to travel the world and visited Russia, India and destinations all over Europe.

Betty enjoyed reading, especially the work of Charles Dickens, and unwinding to classical music.

More than 100 people attended her funeral, which was held at Woodvale Crematorium in Brighton on Friday, January 26.

A total of £250 was raised to be donated to Barnardo’s.

Paying tribute to his mother, Adrian Walshe said: “Mum always believed in wanting to strive to a more fair and just society and she was kind, loving, supportive and generous.

“Her motivation was to make society a better place to live.

“She was a really fantastic mum and an inspiration for us all.”