THIS week in 2001 saw the Adver run what must still rank as our most striking image of a Swindon mayor.

The civil leader in question was David Cox, who took the usual mayoral commitment to join in with community projects to a new and fearless level.

“That’s no lady - that’s the Mayor,” said the headline above a story which began: “Here is game for a laugh mayor David Cox in his latest role - as an ugly sister for a production of Cinderella.

“The Labour councillor and town’s ceremonial leader is swapping his chain of office for a feather boa, full make-up, frilly dress and tights to take his place in the line-up for Pinehurst People’s Centre’s Christmas panto.”

The intrepid civic dignitary told us: “I have refused to shave my beard off, although the mayoress does a good job of covering it up with make-up.

“The worst thing about it is having to wear tights. Us men aren’t used to wearing anything so restrictive, and although I have worn them before to keep me warm when I go fishing, this is really a new experience.

“It’s great fun and I don’t mind making a fool of myself, especially if it is for a good cause.”

Managing to maintain a full programme of mayoral duties in the run-up to the pantomime, Coun Cox confessed to having missed a few rehearsals, but solved the problem by having some of his more complex lines written on props such as his fan and a magazine.

Another Swindon VIP photographed with an unusual look, albeit a somewhat less flamboyant one, was the then Bishop of Swindon, Michael Doe.

We ran three images of him side by side. In each he wore a different pair of glasses; one was half opaque, another fully opaque and the third had a black band directly over the eyes.

The accompanying story explained: “Churches in Swindon are being encouraged to make Christmas services more accessible to the wider community.

“The Bishop of Swindon, the Rt Rev Michael Doe, fears that people suffering with mental illness or physical disabilities often feel excluded from church services.

“During a visit to St Barnabas Church in Ferndale Road, Gorse Hill, yesterday, the Bishop wore sight-impairing spectacles to draw attention to the issue.

“The glasses simulated different degrees of blindness.”

He told us: “Often people feel excluded from the church because of the design of the building or their inability to play a normal part in the proceedings.

“This can be particularly poignant at Christmas, so I am asking everybody to support this initiative as a way of demonstrating our concern.”

The mayor’s venture into ugly sisterdom wasn’t the Adver’s only panto-related story that week 17 years ago.

A veteran showbusiness star rode his trademark ostrich into Bradon Forest Secondary School.

Bernie Clifton, appearing as Buttons in the Wyvern Theatre’s version of Cinderella, was on a mission to meet 12-year-old pupil Megan Gibson.

Talented artist Megan had won the theatre’s pantomime poster design competition for the third year running, and her prizes included a signed programme, a framed copy of her design, a family ticket and a Sainsbury’s hamper.

Megan, who told Bernie that she hoped to be an artist or a dancer when she grew up, won the star’s admiration.

He said: “Megan is lovely, and even though she has won for the last three years she is not at all big-headed and was really surprised.”

By coincidence, one of Megan’s classmates also had a connection to the pantomime. Luke Brown was appearing on the Wyvern stage with fellow Tanwood School for Performing Arts pupils.

Another celebrity with a mission in Swindon was Adam Hart-Davis, the TV historian behind programmes such as What the Romans Did for Us.

He was invited to give a Christmas lecture at Steam, which had opened the previous year, and used the opportunity to defend the embattled museum of the Great Western Railway.

Although it had won overwhelmingly favourable reviews, the museum was not attracting anything like the predicted number of visitors and was unprofitable.

It would emerge later that the predictions had simply been wildly incorrect.

The museum was already being dismissed in some cynical quarters as a white elephant, but the historian passionately rejected the claim - and would ultimately be proved correct.

“It is really important,” he said, “that people learn about their railway heritage because it affected our whole way of life.

“This museum is a real asset for Swindon and is one of just three rail museums in the country.”

The lecture, with 4077 Caerphilly Castle as a backdrop, was called What the Victorians Did for Us, the title of one of his latest television series.