Family remembers Doncaster charity stalwart Jeanette Fish

Hundreds paid tribute to Doncaster's charity stalwart Jeanette Fish at her funeral at Doncaster Minster.

Tuesday, 5th June 2018, 8:30 am
Updated Tuesday, 5th June 2018, 8:37 am
Jeanette Fish

While most will remember the Jeanette who set up one of Doncaster's most important charities, raising around £10 million to buy a hospice and equipment used to fight cancer, others will remember the Jeanette the public never saw.

The 87-year-old who died two weeks ago never mixed her family life and her charity work - but her son and her granddaughters have their own precious memories of their mum and nana.

Mrs Fish seldom talked about her family and her past.

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But explaining her background, son Alex, a retired constuction worker, said his grandmother, Jeanette's mum, died in childbirth and she was brought up an orphan who was sent to boarding school from an early age.

With no family she stayed there during the holidays, and on leaving school, went to London in the 1940s, where she worked as a nurse at Guy's Hospital.

She married Alex's dad, John Fish, and they moved to Sutton Coalfield. He said nurses at that time could not work if they were married.

John, who was born in Fleetwood and grew up in Cleethorpes, went to sea as a trawlerman aged 13. When World War Two broke out he served with the Royal Navy on troop carriers in the Mediterranean.

He later gave up going to sea, and became a miner, with the couple moving to Doncaster in the late 1950s, initially living at Chequer Road, and later at Imperial Crescent, Town Moor.

John was an engineer, fixing issues such as venting problems and roof collapses. He died in 1992.

After having worked as a nurse. Jeanette later went on to work as an NHS manager.

Alex remembered she had come to the conclusion that cancer charities paid their staff, and spent a lot of their money in other parts of the country, so decided to start a charity in Doncaster.

"Mum set up the Doncaster Cancer Detection Trust to buy things for the Doncaster Rotal Infirmary," he said. She had support from the then Doncaster MP Harold Walker, who helped her access some important people in the borough.

After John died in 1992, Jeanette gave the family home on Imperial Crescent to Alex, because she felt it was a family house. She moved out to a flat on Thorne Road. The house needed some renovation at the time.

Alex remembered growing up there.

He said: "There would be bags of all sorts of items that had been donated to the trust's charity shop in the house. The house was filled up with everything from televisions, teddies, dolls and phones. Mum got a good deal on the charity shops. She was very good at asking people to support the charity, but never asked people for more than they could give.

"I remember one year she blagged a car to raffle at a motor show at the racecourse.

"Mum kept charity work and family separate.

"She inspired a lot of people and was an icon for a lot of people, and I think a lot of people did not retire because she did not retire, and she got people do do a lot of good.

"I'm a socialist, but mum was a Tory. She said that she was asked by the Conservatives to stand as an MP, I think in 1979. She said to them she would have liked to stand but was compromised by the fact my dad was on strike at the time, during the winter of discontent, as it was known!"

He said his mum first suffered from cancer in the 1970s, and had treatment. It came back again later, but she never talked about it. Her family would ask how she was, but she would answer with details on trips that she had been on.

Her granddaughter Charlotte Hall said: "She never wanted to worry the family, and I don't think she wanted people to ever think of her as a victim.

"But she didn't raise money for cancer charities because of her own experience - she had started raising money before that. But I think it helped her empathise with others. She just fought to give others a better chance.

"We're all proud of her for all that she's done, but she was very humble about it.

"She was someone who was always on the go, but always still had time for her family. She used to take us on lots of different trips. She wanted us to be worldly and see some of the things she'd seen on her travels. She took us to the Fringe festival in Edinburgh, to the London Eye and the museums. She loved the visits to Scotland and was very proud of her Scottish heritage.

"She was always calm - I don't think I ever heard her raise her voice."

Charlotte said her nana helped shape her career path. She said she now works for a charismatic out-of-towner, working for the Cascade foundation, which helps people who have suffered head injuries. It is run by Jackie Hewitt Main, who was awarded the OBE this year.

Jeanette leaves a son Alex, grandchildren Danielle, Arran and Charlotte, and five great grandchildren.