Charity plans to keep up Sheelagh’s hard work

Sheelagh Pearson with her replacement Rose Mole. Ref shs 7872-23-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Sheelagh Pearson with her replacement Rose Mole. Ref shs 7872-23-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A dedicated charity worker, who spent 20 years matching hospital patients with volunteer drivers, has retired – for the second time – at the age of 87.

Sheelagh Pearson spent two years behind the wheel before taking up her role behind the scenes with Sidmouth Voluntary Services (SVS) in Twyford House.

Her retirement last week marks the end of a long and varied career. Before her charity work, she performed with an all-girl big band and is credited as one of the UK’s first female jazz percussionists.

“SVS must have helped hundreds and hundreds of people over the years,” said Sheelagh. “If the service hadn’t been there, they would’ve been in a fix. The patients all need help – we do as much as we can.”

SVS was established 53 years ago to help over-60s and anyone with a disability to get around.

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The drivers take patients to appointments in Exeter, Exmouth, Axminster, or even as far as Plymouth.

The charity’s three minibuses take passengers on day trips and visits to supermarkets, and they collect residents from around the town for the lunch club at Twyford House.

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SVS is a lot more affordable than a taxi – some drivers wait around for several hours during appointments – and more convenient than a bus.

Sheelagh started out with the service as a volunteer car driver after a similar role in Lancashire.

Her job was only meant to be in the mornings, but the Newtown resident would sometimes be so concerned about the patients reaching their appointments that she would work into the afternoon to find a driver.

“It’s very well loved by all the people that use it,” said Wendy Williams, the charity’s secretary.

“We want to keep going what Sheelagh has been doing for the last 22 years. Without drivers, it wouldn’t happen – they really are the heroes of the day.”

SVS is currently in ‘desperate’ need of more volunteer drivers.

All expenses are covered and anyone interested should call Lisa Bertin on 01395 512221.

Sheelagh was part of the women’s jazz movement that developed after World War Two because of a dearth of male musicians.

She joined an all-girl big band and travelled around Europe before settling in Holland.

? Read more on Sheelagh’s life in jazz in next week’s Herald.

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