Sissy’s singing gift to the town

Dr Barry McGurk listens to Sissy singing in Wesley Square
Dr Barry McGurk listens to Sissy singing in Wesley Square

FROM the deserts of South Africa to the party places of Hartlepool – Sissy Fortuin is eager to show off her voice.

The emerging talent, from Oudtshoorn, in South Africa, is a protege of former Hartlepool man Dr Barry McGurk.

The pair are presently in town and eager to play at any events, entertainment hot-spots or functions.

As Sissy is in the country on a visitor’s visa, the pair are offering their musical services for free.

Barry, who accompanies Sissy on the keyboard, appeared in the Hartlepool Mail in January, appealing for townspeople to help nurture Sissy’s talent by offering to write songs for her or provide venues for her to perform.

After the article appeared, Barry’s former Hartlepool’s Technical High School for Boys School pal, Richard Turner, a freemason, who he had not seen for 50 years, contacted him.

Now Sissy is due to perform at a private function for the Stranton Masonic Lodge this Wednesday.

She will also be performing at West Hartlepool TDSOB Rugby Club, in Throston Grange Lane, on a date to be fixed.

Barry, 65, said: “Sissy has got the most amazing voice.”

Sissy, a church choir mistress who had never been on a plane before her flight to England earlier this week, said: “I love singing, this is my passion.”

The jazz-style singer said she was impressed with what she had seen so far of the North-East, especially as she is used to life in the dessert, where temperatures reach 40C

“I love it, this is the most beautiful place,” she said.

Barry, who moved to South Africa 10 years ago and spends half of the year in England, said in South Africa, white people, black people, and mixed race people don’t usually mix, even 15 years after apartheid came to an end.

But the pair both agreed that attitudes in the North-East were much more welcoming.

Barry, who had a career in forensic psychology, runs a community studio with his wife Theresa, a 69-year-old retired GP.

They discovered Sissy, who lives in a small hut with her grown-up children Issac, Nigel and Dini, and granddaughter Erhine, singing at their local church and new she had talent.

Sissy, who has recorded two CDs, even sings a song called I’ll Have A Ceiling One Day, as the only covering on her house, until this week, was metal sheeting.

The 52-year-old, who had never heard of singing legends like Ella Fitzgerald or Frank Sinatra also sings covers, including jazz classics Georgia On My Mind, The Lady Is A Tramp and Summertime.

Barry, whose UK home is in Tantobie, County Durham, has a cousin Mavis Christlo and her family still live in the Park Road area.

He previously appeared in the Mail having been reunited with former bandmates from 1960s town groups The Toffees and The Reaction.

Sissy is in the UK until May 18 and anyone who wants her to sing at their venue can contact Barry on 07850408835.