Jean was born on the 23 February 1926 at Cloverly, Cleveleys, Lancashire. Her Family lived at Larkhill, Blackburn above a wines and spirits shop run by her Mother and Grandmother owned by her Father’s family.
Jean was privately educated and attended two boarding schools, Beeston Towers in Cheshire which she hated and the second was Casterton School in Kirby Lonsdale where she thrived on happy drama days and where she developed her love of literature. She joined the Wrens in 1943 in Liverpool and trained near Loch Lomond. Jean had shorthand skills and was soon sent to Formby, Liverpool to transcribe signals coming in from the Navy in the Atlantic convoys. She later transferred to the Fleet Air Arm in Dorset. Once demobbed she returned to Blackburn working for her Father and his 40 staff in his Ford franchise garage. She met Geoff her future husband at a Pleasington Golf Club dinner. Although introduced to her as “a stuffed shirt,” they courted and married at Sailsbury Church, Blackburn on 28 March 1950. Martin was born 2 June 1952 and Andy 22 February 1954.
In the 1960’s Jean began a long career in the cosmetics business which caused her to travel
to Manchester and London as regional manager for Lancashire. Geoff meanwhile was running a successful hardware business in Blackburn which he sold in 1970 and the family moved to the Isle of Man, building and then living at their bungalow in Birchhill, Onchan for the rest of their lives.
Jean’s butcher was Jack Hampson and of hearing that she had been a member of Blackburn Arts Club and Blackburn Drama Club he very quickly encouraged her to join the Service Players. Her first play being “Not now Darling “ a Ray Cooney farce. She went
on to perform in many plays as well as a fine Director. Later she became secretary, Chairman and President. A very funny story told to me by Jean from her acting days was after rehearsals at the Quarterbridge Hotel it was normal to stay on for a drink. One night they stayed on for longer until the door flew open and there was Geoff in his pyjamas asking politely of course “When are you coming home!”
Her last role was in Uncle Vanya by Chekov at the Erin Arts Centre, Jean was then 90. Jean and I met through the Manx Amateur Drama Federation. She became secretary to my first Chairmanship and then went on to become Chairman and President. She became totally immersed and loved welcoming the visiting teams coming to the island from all over the British Isles and Ireland for the Easter Festival of Plays.
During that early period Jean and I and others fought very hard to preserve the Gaiety from demolition. We encouraged Jack Nivison, MHK for Onchan to ask the IOM Government to purchase the theatre. We were very proud that written into Hansard that the Gaiety Theatre must always be available for amateur productions.
We also organised Drama weekends with professional tutors at the Grand Island Hotel in Ramsey. Jean and I often recalled the parties held in our bedrooms. On one such occasion there was so much noise coming from my room crammed with revellers there then came a loud knock on the door, it was Billy Kelly’s Mother (he was our treasurer) Billy was quickly thrown into the wardrobe (by the Hotel Manager Brian Keenan), the door opened and we were all asked “have you seen my Billy?” All shook their heads and Mrs Kelly departed in great dudgeon. A highlight of the weekend. I know there will be Arts Council members here present so I should say we worked very hard in the day.
Between 1977 and 1984 Jean was the local organiser with Philip Kirkwood, Palace Hotel & Travel now living in Australia of groups of children from Paris who came to the island to stay with Manx families. Jean organised their travel to and from France, chose their families and organised events including sport and theatre.
Jean had many interests which she shared with her friends including Pat Lowe. She was a
member of Onchan WI, the Palace swimming club and others. Pat and Jean had a wonderful cruise around the Mediterranean. Laterly she enjoyed having lunch with Onchan Live at Home, making recordings for the Blind Welfare and being a member of St Peter’s Church.
Jean had wonderful support from her neighbours, Pat, Kath Ayres, Colin, Les Anders, Carol
Bairstow, Rachel Vickers and Andy Barrett, all of us making regular visits. Finally Diane Allwright Jean’s long term carer, close friend and confidente. John Wright sends his love to a true friend. My apologies if we have missed anybody.
Jean moved to Crovan Court, Care Home, Ramsey in December last year. Pat, Rachel, Kath, Diane and myself made the regular journey over the mountain to see her. Those visits breaking up what she would describe as “a very long day” were critical to her well being and mental health. Martin & Andy thank you all.
Jean’s love for Geoff was a constant. Very different people, but a very enduring love. Jean was there for Geoff as he became increasingly dependent on her. She never relinquished that role or her love.
The greatest regret is to have lived as if life were a dress rehearsal. Jean was a liberal (small c), a feminist, certainly a modern woman and she knew the preciousness of life. Jean’s message to us all would be; If you have a passion, pursue it. Have a skill exploit it, if you have knowledge pass it on. God bless Jean.
- Michael Lees