IT was a pairing which raised the eyebrows of everyone from Princess Diana to the captain of HMS Sheffield, from city bigwigs to the bloke living in Verdon Street, Pitsmoor, whose hobby appeared to be drinking Special Brew.
But it was a pairing which also made Sheffield history.
Scott Barton was 22, unemployed and living in a council flat when, some two decades ago, he was invited to be consort to the 68-year-old Lord Mayor Doris Askham.
By accepting, he became not only the youngest-ever in the post but also the only non-husband male consort to a female lord mayor.
And today – as the 20th anniversary of the end of Mayor Askham’s term rolls round – he remains still stunned by that surreal year in which he met royals and TV legends, helped open the World Student Games and experienced the acute embarrassment of having a young Australian athlete ask if he was the mayor’s sex slave.
“I wasn’t,” says the 44-year-old today. “And I should say no-one laughed harder at the question than Doris.”
In fact Scott’s bizarre 12 months came about because Lord Mayor Askham was a family friend.
Her husband had died previously and, because the 1991-92 term was to see the World Student Games held in Sheffield, she decided a youngster should be her official friend.
“It was extraordinary to be asked,” says Scott who now lives in Sandygate with wife Jill Phillips and their three children. “I remember I was in the bath when she called. I was standing in a towel thinking ‘I can’t do that’ but I couldn’t not do it either.”
He accepted, and initially the pairing did cause some double-takes – not least in Verdon Street where Scott then lived near that booze-loving neighbour.
“I remember being dropped off in my tuxedo one night by the mayor’s green limousine,” he says. “This neighbour looked at me and said: ‘It’s going downhill round here’.”
The pairing was also of interest to Princess Diana.
“Meeting her was one of the best moments,” says Scott, who today runs Yellow Bus Events, the firm behind city spectaculars After Dark and Fright Night.
“She was at a charity function at Cutler’s Hall. She had an incredible presence, real star quality. But she was also really interested in the dynamics of someone so young being a consort. We had quite a chat.”
As indeed he did with Bob Monkhouse who was in Sheffield that year to open the Lyceum after a major upgrade.
The comic performed on the first night there and greatly impressed the Lord Mayor.
“We had a reception afterwards,” says Scott.
“Doris was known as a straight-talker. She told him she’d enjoyed the night but then added: ‘I’m surprised because you’re crap on telly’.
“The funny thing was I got the impression he heard that quite a lot.”
The year also included an evening on board HMS Sheffield (“I forgot my suit trousers,” winces Scott, “and the captain had to give me permission to wear jeans”), more charity dinners than is good for the waistline and – best not forget this one – meeting his wife.
Jill was working at city solicitors Irwin Mitchell while Scott was dealing with the firm for the Lord Mayor’s charity.
They’ve been together ever since and Doris, who passed away five years ago, attended the wedding in 1994.
“It was an incredible year,” says Scott.
“I feel honoured to have been a part of Sheffield’s history.”