A MAYOR has been left red-faced after leading a minute of silence in remembrance of her predecessor – who is alive and kicking in New Zealand.
Hazel Bettison led Berwick-upon-Tweed town council in a minute of silence last month to remember Bill Ferguson – their former mayor and council leader.
But rumours of their ex-leader being six feet under turned out to be greatly exaggerated after it was revealed he is alive and well down-under.
After discovering her grave error, the Mayor of the border town has been forced to apologise to Mr Ferguson and his family.
A Berwick-upon-Tweed council spokeswoman said: “It happened at a meeting in October, I think on the 26th. We had a minute’s silence for a former sheriff who had died and also mentioned ex councilor, Bill Ferguson.
“She received the information in good faith and it was only afterwards we were informed that he is actually still alive. It wasn’t Bill who called himself, I think it was a friend.
“So after finding out she apologised at the council meeting last Monday.”
Minutes of the council from November 23 show that the mistake was highlighted by Cllr Georgina Hill.
The minutes state: “Cllr Hill mentioned the death of Cllr Ferguson which was advised at the last meeting as being rather premature and that he was still actually alive and well.
“Cllr Bettison apologised and said the Council would write letter of apology.”
Councilor Hill said: “When Hazel found out about the error she was sort of laughing but I think she was quite mortified. It was actually quite humorous.
“It’s quite an amusing story so I don’t think Bill would be offended, he would probably see the funny side of it.
“I had heard other people saying the same thing, that a Bill Ferguson had died, so I’m not sure if it was just a mix up and was actually someone else.”
Mayor Bettison said: “All I can do is apologise. I was given the information by two former mayors.”
One local said: “Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the dead and the living when it comes to Berwick councillors.
“Most people won’t be surprised about this as it’s just yet another cock up by Berwick officials.”
Many well-known figures have had their deaths prematurely announced over the years.
In 1897 American author Mark Twain famously responded to a report of his death by saying: “Rumours of my death are greatly exaggerated.”
Meanwhile Alfred Nobel founded the world-famous Nobel prize after his own death was prematurely announced in several papers in 1888.
One of the obituaries, titled “The merchant of death is dead”, criticised him for his invention of dynamite, saying he “became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before.”
Unhappy with the way he was to be remembered, he founded the Nobel prize and left the majority of his wealth to the it.
More recently, an internet prank led some news outlets to report the premature death of Canadian rapper Drake after Youtubers began leaving messages of condolences on his videos.
The Queen, Paul McCartney and Sean Connery have also had their deaths reported early.