|Sheila & my father in Eden|
When her parents separated in the mid 1950s, Sheila and her mum briefly returned to Scotland. They made their way north to Auchterarder in Perthshire, where Sheila's mother (my grandmother) had already obtained work as a domestic servant at the huge Gleneagles Hotel, her job being to supervise the laundry in the hotel etc. Sheila had to stay in the village with a lady called Mrs. King and her son, Charles, and was enrolled into a local school in the town, having to wear a uniform of maroon and grey.
Sheila and her mum returned to Northern Ireland not long after, and when her mum regained custody of the three boys, they all moved to Carrickfergus, further north along the shore of Belfast Lough. They initially stayed in the village of Eden, but not long after relocated to Joymount in the town itself, residing at Robinson's Row. In the late 1950s, Sheila developed polio, and it was believed that she would never walk again in her lifetime. She was treated at Purdysburn Hospital in Belfast, and at one point, when it was believed that the virus had reached her brain, things did not look good for her. She once told me that she remembered the nurses saying that they might have to call her father in to see her for a last time, but fortunately her condition improved and she was discharged from the hospital with a pair of calipers to help her when walking. She overcame her polio with sheer grit and determination.
As a teenager, Sheila worked for Betty Wilson in Dobbins Inn Hotel in Carrickfergus. With the money she earned from here, Sheila was the first to buy a Mini car in the town in the 1960s. She later worked at Dunmore race course.
|Wedding - with her father, Colin & Charlie|
Sheila had no time for the sectarian nonsense still happening in Ireland - politically she was a member of the Alliance party, with as many Catholic friends as Protestant. When I married my Irish Catholic wife Claire in Kilkenny in 2000, Sheila was the only member of my extended family to bother coming to the service from Northern Ireland - and in Kilkenny today my wife's brothers still toast "Auntie Sheila", she made quite an impact! Nobody told Sheila where the boundaries were, she was capable of making her own mind up in such matters. In that regard she was a true hero, and there are not enough like her.
Overall, if there is one word that describes Sheila's approach to life it was a 'grafter' - she worked hard to get where she got to, overcoming extraordinary odds and challenges.
|Sheila at my wedding in June 2000|
I can hear her now - "Now Christopher, let me tell you, have you nothing better to be doing with your time than writing all this nonsense?"
RIP Auntie Sheila, you will be much missed...
And make way Big Yin, there's a Paton coming - and she'll be making sure your handicap gets better on the big celestial golf course in the sky!
|Carrick Golf Club Ladies annual dinner, abt 1981|
|After my christening in Helensburgh|
|Ladies Captain's Day at Carrickfergus Golf Club, 1981|
|On a winning streak!|