Sheila was born in Scarborough with extended family living near her. Her father, who had been in the Merchant Navy, gained employment with a firm who became part of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Company. The family moved to Crosby, and Sheila became a pupil at Merchant Taylors’ School in 1945. The School had a massive impact on her life, not just for her education, but in forming lifelong friendships. She has always been particularly close to the Leigh family (Joyce Ewbank).
Academically she excelled; she also loved singing in the school choir, and was keen on sports – especially cricket. MTGS with its wonderful ethos meant much to Sheila, and her schooldays were always remembered with pleasure, gratitude and affection. Whilst at school, her heart remained in Yorkshire, and each summer she returned to Scarborough.
In 1952 she went to Gypsy Hill College. After training, she taught for a short time in Liverpool, but then relocated to London. She had met Pat at college, and whilst living together in Streatham, they worked in a variety of schools in the area. Sheila’s qualities as a natural leader soon became apparent, and she eventually became headteacher of a large school in Brixton which had huge social issues. She dealt with them confidently and with great skill.
After many years of working in London, Sheila and Pat decided to relocate to Yorkshire in 1974. Pat became headteacher of a school in Bridlington and Sheila headteacher of the Flamborough School. Their journeys to school were a vast contrast to those in London. They bought the beautiful St Mary’s Cottage, which was in need of much renovation. Sheila lived there for the rest of her life.
Very sadly, in 1979 Pat died unexpectedly. This was a difficult time, but Sheila was supported by new friends in Ebberston. Some years later Sheila was forced to take early retirement on health grounds. She then began (on a small scale) to breed cattle, at first Friesians and then Limousins. This became a big part of her life for many years. Fortunately, she sold her last cows before the devastating foot and mouth epidemic in 2001.
There were so many aspects to Sheila’s life. She was devoted to St Mary’s Church, where she served for many years as Churchwarden. Recently, she was responsible for liaising with surveyors and craftsmen when developments and renovations took place at the church. The result is a fitting memorial to her vision and devotion. She served as lay chair for the deanery and was a member of the diocesan synod for many years. Her involvement with the local Conservative party included more committee work, electioneering and fundraising with friends. She loved theatre and music (Opera North and Ryedale Festival), lectures and tours with NADFAS, RSPB, John Lewis, gardening and growing many fruits and vegetables. The Archers and Any Questions were among her favourite radio programmes, listened to probably with a glass of malt whiskey in her hand.
Her mother lived in her own home near Scarborough until she was 99 years old. She died only shortly before her 100th birthday. One or two years later Sheila’s brother Stuart died from cancer. It was with great sadness that she realised she had no living relatives.
Sheila was always fully committed to all she did. She could be forthright and independent but was also passionate, thoughtful, very caring and generous. Her faith was resolute and trusting – she bravely faced the devastating news of her cancer. Her demeanour was a shining Christian example to us all. Sheila was hugely loyal to all her friends who have been privileged to have known and loved her. We are left with so many happy memories.
Barbara Guest (Shoesmith)