Councillor who was a “force of nature” dies, aged 66

Date: Tuesday 5th December 2017

EDEN councillor Sheila Orchard lost her latest battle with cancer and passed away on Friday, aged 66.

Sheila was born in 1951 at Leyland, Lancashire, the second child and only daughter of James and Nellie Brindle.

She was educated at Penwortham High School for Girls and on leaving school undertook secretarial training in Preston before joining the Leyland and Birmingham Rubber Company as a shorthand typist.

She then transferred to Leyland Motors and quickly rose through the ranks to become a senior secretary working for directors. Her final position, and one she held for many years, was secretary PA to the sales and marketing director.

After leaving Leyland she became secretary PA to the sales and marketing director of Edbro Ltd., Bolton. She was an early user of computers when she joined Lenset Ltd. in Preston and trained to become a computer typesetter, using a machine which was the size of a family room.

She met her second husband, Rob, in the 70s and the couple married in 1981. Sheila did not have children of her own but looked upon Rob’s three children, Louise, Clare and David, from his previous marriage, as her children and loved the arrival of grandchildren — all nine of them.

Rob and Sheila moved to Cumbria in 1986 where the couple set up their own marketing company specialising in the bus and coach industry, and in particular the organisation of annual industry exhibitions mostly at the NEC, Birmingham.

When they moved to Cumbria they set about restoring the derelict railway station at Little Salkeld, near Penrith, and turned it into a beautiful home. In 1997 the couple moved to Melmerby.

On moving to Cumbria Sheila immersed herself in the community and became involved with the Fellrunner village bus, Melmerby and District Gardening Club, St. John the Baptist Church, Melmerby PCC and the WI.

She was clerk to Ousby Parish Council for 12 years before being elected to Eden District Council in 2007, representing the Hartside ward as a Conservative. At the time of her death, she was serving her third term.

She was passionate about protecting the local environment and particularly the sympathetic development of the villages within her constituency.

Sheila was leader of the Conservative Group on Eden Council from 2011 to 2015. She played a key role in the council’s scrutiny function as chairman of the co-ordinating board from 2015-17 and most recently as its vice-chairman.

Some of the most valued pieces of work undertaken by Sheila arose from her chairing the Talking with Rural Communities scrutiny review in 2013-14. This was established to improve the way the council communicates with rural areas.

Eden District Council leader Kevin Beaty said: “There are not many people I would describe as a force of nature, but Sheila was definitely one of those. She stood up for her Conservative values, but also had very much the interests of the people she represented at heart.

“She will be sadly missed on a political level, as well as very much on a personal level. Our thoughts and prayers are with Sheila’s husband, Robert, her family and friends at this time.”

Ian Chambers, chairman of the Conservative Group on Eden Council, said: “Sheila and I hit it off right from the start. She always gave me words of encouragement. Sheila was a team player, but she was there, doing her best for the people she represented, as we all should be.”

Sheila was described by her family as a very private person, supremely intelligent and very creative, and a talented artist and keyboard player.

She was always immaculately dressed, even during the last year when she was confined to a wheelchair, and will be remembered by many for always having immaculate nails.

Sheila had a chequered medical history, surviving cancer twice, suffering a very serious fall and amputation of both legs before the third cancer proved to be one hurdle too far. She continued to attend council meetings until very recently.

She died peacefully at home with her husband and her Westie dog Luna by her side.