MP WRITES: In memory of Sheila

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I’m very blessed to meet some wonderful characters, people who lift you up and make you feel that life is worthwhile.

One of those great characters – somebody who made Hartlepool a much better place – has sadly died at the age of 89.

Sheila Tindall will be known and missed by many, many people in many walks of life due to the fact that she genuinely loved people and loved the huge variety that life offered.

Sheila taught countless people during her time as a teacher in the town at Sacred Heart, Rift House and Clavering schools.

She used to delight in telling me how people she had taught now introduced her in the town to their children and grandchildren.

I would imagine that Sheila was a superb teacher – interested in the progress and development of pupils, keen to pass on her love of life, knowledge and sense of morality and fairness and determined to instil discipline and good behaviour.

Sheila loved family, loved her own and loved asking after others.

Her front room was full of family pictures – she was always particularly and rightly proud to show you the latest picture of a grandchild graduating – and she was extremely close to them.

She loved music and singing and passed this gift on to most of the rest of her family. Sheila’s daughter Brenda and her grandchildren are skilful in music and have showcased their talents on behalf of Hartlepool, of which Sheila was rightly proud.

Sheila and Coun Sheila Griffin were very close and did many things together.

I love them both dearly and see them as much as a partnership as Morecambe and Wise or fish and chips.

They used to phone each other everyday and travel far and wide together.

When I used to see one Sheila I always had to ask “How’s the other Sheila? Where have you been now?”

I know how the death of her only brother a couple of years ago affected her deeply, but despite her own grief, she always showed a genuine interest in the welfare of those she knew. Two days before she died she phoned my wife to ask how Coun Ged Hall, who was ill in hospital, was. That sums up Sheila to me: always concerned about others.

I remember going round to her house – and how she managed that steep climb up and down her drive in Formby Close, which used to exhaust me, is testimony to her strength and determination – and even in her late 80s she used to ask after every single one of my children by their names.

Even I find it difficult to remember them all!

I can still hear her say to me “How’s that little Billy?” in that Lancashire accent that never left her and she was always genuinely keen to hear what people had been doing.

She had a wicked and mischievous sense of humour that was younger and sharper than her years. A year or so ago she had fallen off her bed and injured herself.

She had somehow bounced off the bed and hit her bedside lamp. When I went to see her I said: “Sheila, what on earth had you been doing bouncing on the bed?” to which she replied quick as a flash, with a wicked glint in her eye: “None of your business!” She was a warm and generous woman, but equally wouldn’t keep her thoughts to herself when she thought you had done wrong.

I still shake at the memory of seeing the two Sheilas at an event in the Borough Hall where I was due to make a speech.

Beforehand I went over to say hello and give them a kiss, to which Sheila Tindall said to me in a loud voice which she had probably used in the classroom: “I’m not happy with you. People came to see you and I don’t think you were as polite as you could have been.”

I certainly went away with my tail between my legs.

Sheila had a long and rich life. She died peacefully in her sleep knowing that she loved many and that many family and friends loved her back very deeply.

I’m honoured to include myself as a friend. I, along with many, many people are grieving for her loss but are equally thankful that she was in our lives.

I’ll miss her judgement, advice, kindness and friendship and feel deeply proud that I knew her.

My deepest sympathies to Brenda, Marian and David and her 10 grandchildren.