Tackling a new role is not an unknown experience for Marilyn Bowman. In the mayor’s parlour at Carlisle’s Civic Centre with her husband Syd, Marilyn recalls a major career change many years ago.

She had been an office worker, receptionist and telephonist before joining Syd’s butcher’s business.

“I was out of my comfort zone,” she recalls of them opening Bowman’s Butchers at Corby Hill, four miles east of Carlisle, in 1977.

“I learned new skills. How to make sausages. Deliveries. And being chief hygiene inspector. Every evening I made sure the place was spotless before anyone went home. I wasn’t always popular!”

Such attention to detail is easy to imagine from this elegant 72-year-old who gives the impression of liking things to be just so.

But there’s warmth as well. She speaks fondly of playing a pivotal role in local life as Carlisle’s new mayor, and in her family business.

“Being a village shop, the customers were locals who came back every week. You become part of their extended family. If there was a wedding or some sadness, you were involved.

“We used to post letters for the elderly if they were struggling. The children would get a sweet. I once met a policeman - he was six-foot something. He said ‘I used to come in your shop and get sweets!’ We made many friends over the years. It’s more than being a business. It’s supporting the community.”

This chapter came to an end in 2001. Bowman’s Butchers was a casualty of the foot and mouth outbreak which devastated Cumbria’s farming community.

“You could see it coming, field by field,” recalls Marilyn. “It was an awfully sad time for Cumbria. We always bought from local farmers, from H&H Auction Mart. My husband wouldn’t supply anything if he didn’t know where it had come from. He stuck to that throughout the 24 years.

“With foot and mouth, there was no animal movements. We felt we couldn’t supply the quality that we had done. We carried on as long as we could. But that pre-empted our retirement.

“My husband had his principles. He wouldn’t compromise. I support him in that.”

They have been a team for just over half a century of marriage.

“Fifty one years, he’s been there,” says Marilyn. “He’s supported me. We’ve had our differences. I think that’s true of any marriage. We both have a view. But we sorted them out and worked through it. We are a partnership. We work together.”

They have two children - Simon and Rachel - two grandchildren, and a one-year-old great-granddaughter, Lexie.

Simon is an environmental health and safety consultant. Rachel is an independent safeguarding consultant for local authorities. Both were proud to attend last month’s mayor-making ceremony.

Their parents met at a dance in Lazonby Village Hall. Marilyn had grown up in a remote area near Shap. “My father worked at Harrison’s lime works. There was one bungalow when we moved. I suppose it was very modern: it had electricity and running water, which some properties didn’t have.

“In winter the ice on the windows was three or four inches on the inside. Snow was often up to the roof. My father used to dig a path. But I never remember being cold or lonely. I enjoyed my childhood. I loved the rugged landscape. I still do. When you come over Shap Fell, that to me is home.”

And so is Carlisle. She and Syd live in the city which they now represent, as its 433rd mayor and her consort. They spent the previous year as deputies, attending events when the mayor was unavailable.

“I thoroughly enjoyed that,” says Marilyn. “We went to about 30 events. A wide range. I enjoy meeting people. People have gone to so much trouble. It’s an honour to take part in their event.”

Of Syd’s role as consort, she says: “He’s been in training for a year! In our previous life he was the president of the Butchers’ Association. That was good practice for this with things like hosting dinners.

“I’m enjoying being mayor so much. I sat there for 20 years as a councillor watching other people doing it. Eventually I decided to take the opportunity to be mayor. I’ve been welcomed by so many people.

“We were at ICan Health and Fitness in Denton Holme. Some of the ladies there had been bereaved. Getting out and meeting people helps to get them through the loneliness.

“I want to get the word out that good work like this is going on in Carlisle. We saw that during the floods and foot and mouth: everybody helping.”

What else is she looking to do during her year in office?

“Just to represent the city. I’m proud of the city. I want to promote Carlisle. It’s a wonderful city. It’s the people that make the difference.

“We need to improve tourism and make people aware of what we’ve got here and encourage them to come and see it. We can’t just be the best-kept secret. We need to showcase the whole package. It’s everything that we’ve got, and everything that we are.”

Her chosen charities are CFM’s Cash for Kids, Guide Dogs UK and Jigsaw Children’s Hospice. She and Syd visited Jigsaw during Marilyn’s year as deputy mayor.

She says: “I’ve had people in the hospice. It’s not just the patients, it’s the support for families in their time of need. That can go on for years. The care and attention they provide, it’s outstanding.”

“Cash for Kids: it might only be a small thing that the money goes towards. Something that they can’t personally afford. Just to have a new football shirt. Or a teenager that can’t afford deodorants. Cash for Kids can do that. It gives them confidence. That makes such a difference.”

Marilyn was inspired to support Guide Dogs UK by her fellow Conservative councillor David Morton.

“I’ve seen with Councillor Morton the change his guide dog has made to him. To see him go striding down the street. If I can help in any way to give someone else that chance, I will.”

She became interested in politics in the 1980s. In 1995 she stood in a Carlisle City Council by-election in the rural Hayton ward, and was beaten by 50 votes. Two years later she stood again... and was beaten by 50 votes.

In 1999 Marilyn stood in Stanwix Rural: third time lucky. She has been a councillor ever since. Following boundary changes, she was last month elected to represent the new Wetheral and Corby ward.

Because Marilyn represents a rural area, she has dealt with a lot of planning issues.

“And the usual ‘The bin hasn’t been emptied.’ What might seem a minor issue is very important and frustrating for them.”

One of her most satisfying achievements was helping residents secure a play area which had been part of a planning application.

“It took nine years to achieve what should have been done by the developer in the first place. A lot of hard battle. Court cases. I wouldn’t give up. I won’t give up.”

She adds: “If someone comes to you with a concern or a complaint, you’ve got to keep them informed. If there’s nothing you can do, at least go back and tell them.”

Marilyn spent nine years on the council’s Executive, as the portfolio holder for economy.

“I like working with businesses. I find that really interesting. Ours was just a small business. But I could understand the problems that large businesses were facing.”

She says she has not experienced the kind of vitriol which rains down on many national politicians.

“There’s a difference between national politicians and us. During the last election we tried to make sure people didn’t base their opinion on national issues.

“There’s very few people who are not polite. Knocking on doors, people will give you a leaflet back. But it’s very, very rare that someone is aggressive. I’ve only had one recently that was abusive. You have to be thick-skinned. You try your best. Sometimes whatever you try is not good enough.”

Syd, 77, is no stranger to this world. He did not stand in last month’s elections, after nine years as a Tory councillor for the rural Irthing ward. He and Marilyn used to campaign for each other. What’s his view of the success of their partnership?

“I always do as I’m told!” he grins.

Is he proud of his wife being mayor?

“Yes. She’s been a good councillor for 20 years. She deserves this.”

Any final thoughts from Mayor Bowman on her hopes for the coming year?

“Just to represent the people of Carlisle to the best of my ability. It’s an honour to be the mayor.”