A CENTURIES-old ceremony today saw the chains of office pass from former Lord Mayor of York Irene Waudby to her successor David Horton.

Watched by City of York councillors, aldermen and members of the public, Coun Horton accepted the role for the next year.

It brought to an end more than 400 official engagements for Coun Waudby.

She said: "It seems almost impossible that 12 months have passed, for me it's been a tremendous year."

Coun Shan Braund, nominating Coun Horton, said: "He is a warm, sociable and above all, generous man, and I am proud to nominate him".

Coun Martin Brumby was named as the new Sheriff of York.

The meeting also saw Coun Bob Fletcher step down as executive member for social services.

He will be replaced by Coun Viv Kind, while Coun Ruth Potter replaces her as the council's housing spokeswoman. Labour member Coun Horton, 60, is the first man to be named Lord Mayor in three years.

After the changeover at City of York Council's annual meeting, the new Lord Mayor led a procession of councillors and dignitaries through the city centre for a lunch at the Merchant Adventurers' Hall.

Coun Horton said: "I've had so many former Lord Mayors giving me advice on it, and the message seems to be unanimous that I will enjoy it."

Coun Waudby said: "What I would say to David is make the most of it. It's a unique opportunity and one which he is really going to enjoy.

Coun Waudby is now looking forward to a few days holiday before returning to the ranks of the Liberal Democrat's shadow executive, as the member for local affairs and community safety.

She said: "One of the highlights of my year, I would say, was the military occasions, which were absolutely brilliant.

"I attended a superb service for the 80th anniversary of the British Legion, and I've taken two royal salutes for the Queen's birthday. Not many people can say they've done that."

Other highlights include a trip to South Africa as guests of the tourist board, four meetings with Prince Andrew, and one with Princess Anne.

Coun Waudby said: "Of course, there were also the memorial services which nobody would have expected, for things such as September 11 and the death of the Queen Mother."

Coun Horton's diary already looks busy, with his first occasion being York's street buskers' festival on Saturday. He said: "The diary seems pretty busy right the way up to Christmas.

"I've just retired from work after a very busy year, and I'm certainly not expecting this to be a quiet introduction to retirement."

Coun Horton, who has been a councillor in Acomb for 16 years, has named his 28-year-old daughter, Kathleen Gibson, as Lady Mayoress.

Coun Brumby's wife, Annette, will be the Sheriff's Lady.

Updated: 14:53 Thursday, May 23, 2002