‘Only my mother, Sheila Mary Harley Robson (nee Rowland), could blag herself two funerals’, is how daughter Fiona will begin her eulogy.
That will be at the Harrogate funeral for former Lincolnshire Free Press and Spalding Guardian reporter Sheila Robson, who died last weekend, aged 91.
These were known as the ‘Sheila Robson Years’ by her employers. The awards she won for journalism were numerous and it’s not an exaggeration to say she was a household name in Spalding.
Sheila spent 30 years working for these newspapers, earning the respect of colleagues and readers who admired her professionalism as well as her warm and caring nature.
Sheila also made many friends in the community, and they will have the chance to bid farewell at the second funeral, a commital service to be held in Spalding’s parish church in the summer – date to be announced.
Fiona says the “New Zealand contingent” – Sheila’s daughter Mandy, who is married to Derek, and their married daughter Lucy – will also be present at that service.
Sheila was born in London in 1923 and Fiona says she was “enormously proud” of her father, the London editor of the Dundee DC Thomson newspaper empire.
Fiona writes: “No great mathematician, Sheila did show an early aptitude for literature and read voraciously, often books that were really meant for an older readership. The librarian telephoned my grandfather on occasions asking him if he knew the sorts of books she was taking out of the library.”
Sheila followed her father into the newspaper profession, working in his office and covering mostly court cases.
At the outbreak of World War 2, Sheila joined the WRENs, a part of her life she was very proud of.
It was while working in London that Sheila met her future husband, Paul, an army officer. They knew each other for three weeks before he was posted to North Africa – it would be four years before they would see each other again.
They married at the end of the war, moving to South Holland so that Paul could pursue a career in horticulture.
Sheila meanwhile joined these newspapers, and Fiona says: “These were known as the ‘Sheila Robson Years’ by her employers. The awards she won for journalism were numerous and it’s not an exaggeration to say she was a household name in Spalding. Her ‘last firework’, as she described it, was to be awarded her MBE for services to community journalism, for which she was very proud.”
In fact, Fiona writes it wasn’t to be her mother’s last firework, as, some years after Paul’s death following 40 happy years of marriage, Sheila “made a very happy, loving friendship” with John Wilkinson.
Fiona says that gave her mother “a new lease of life”, and they did a lot of travelling and activities together until John’s sudden death, which accelerated the beginnings of Sheila’s vascular dementia.