…Helen Fleming Whitelaw…
…This is Your Life…
Hear the introductory music in your head (da, da, da, daaa!) and read all about our latest ‘This is Your Life’ victim at Accord Hospice Day Therapy Zoom!
In the Beginning…
I was born Helen Fleming Hamilton on 24th April 1944 in a nursing home in Glasgow and I was brought up in Neilston.
My Dad was Alfred and my Mum Margaret and I have an older brother called Fred. I married Charlie in 1966 and we have 2 daughters: Gillian and Lesley.
I attended Neilston Primary School then went to the John Neilson Institution in Paisley. It was near the Observatory, do you remember the building called the ‘Pudding Bowl’…well that was it. I then went to Skerries Secretarial College (Skerries, like the lighthouse!) in Bath Street, Glasgow.
My first job was as a junior shorthand typist with Thomas Thomson in Barrhead, we made tarpaulins for lorries, Elastoplast, fiberglass coal effect for electric fires etc.
I tended to move jobs every 2 years for variety, this meant I worked in many places including Grants Distillery in Glenburn and Brown and Polson.
I eventually went to General Accident and worked in various departments until I retired and then returned to work for the Council this time in the Council Planning Dept. I really enjoyed it there as I loved to see what people did with their homes…I am nosey really!
Once the children were older went to back to work with a small advertising agency, when I went for the interview I wasn’t used to their newfangled ways, when asked the stupid question, “What kind of secretary do you think you would make Helen?” I replied “The best you will get for the money you are paying!”…I got the job and stayed 2 years.
Ponies started for me when I was a child, the first pony my father bought when I was 9 or 10 called Prince. He belonged to a carter in Glasgow and was an older pony that was bombproof with traffic but he was frightened of trees and Neilston was full of trees! He was used to going slowly and he was really quite lazy, no wonder after years of pounding the streets of Glasgow!
He was then sold because the field was bought for the new primary school.
We then moved to the Barrhead and my father bought me another pony. He was black and of course, called Jet. I was never a very confident rider so I needed another bombproof horse…I got that in Jet.
At 17 I bought a car and couldn’t afford both a pony and a car so Jet was sold.
I then worked at Newton Mearns riding school on a Saturday with my pal Jean and it was there I fell for the long haired stable lad, Charlie. We got to ride good horses and did it for the love of horses and not for pay but the real reward was, I got to know Charlie better!
Eventually horses ran away with the money when my children were small so we moved to dog showing “because I could get more of them into the car!”
So I started showing Whippets and had a successful career over 30 yrs. I have exhibited for many years at Crufts and have had many best in show awards and at one point I was the President of the Ladies Kennel Association of Scotland. And I spent many years on the committee of the Whippet Club of Scotland.
Charlie says one dog show is the same as another…he was more interested in motorbikes but that is a whole other story!
Favourite meal, movie, T V programmes and Theatre
Meal – Macaroni and cheese
Movie – Love Actually
TV – The Repair Shop
Theatre – 42nd Street with all that tap dancing.
Favourite holiday destination
I have been on 26 cruises as far North as the Arctic Circle, as far east as the Suez Canal, as far west as the Panama Canal and as far south as the Canaries. We went to St Petersburg in Russia on a Baltic Cruise and we got to Svalbard in Norway where it was even snowing…in July and it never got dark!
The Caribbean was the best with the perfect combination of sun, local people, rum and local beer…there is nothing nicer than a cold beer on a warm day. At St Martin in the Caribbean you could get a deckchair and bucket of beer with 10 bottles for $25…well you need to keep well hydrated in that heat you know!
And in all my destinations the secret place I most love is the wine and tapas bar in the P&O Azura.
But having travelled the world, my favourite holiday destination has to be Oban – it’s about rain and gin! We used to take our caravan there in the summer and my friend Annabel and I tasted all the different gins we could get our hands or our lips round while sitting in the van looking over to Mull…
Could you tell the audience something about yourself that would surprise them?
You might also be surprised to know that I learned to ride a motorbike when I was well into my 40’sand also learned to fall asleep on the back of a motorbike. On long boring journeys I would nod and my helmet would hit Charlie’s and he would know I was sleeping, he used to shake my knee to wake me up. With a topbox at my back side and panniers on the bike if you realised how difficult it was to climb on the bike you would realise that it would be hard to, fall off too!
I was also interviewed on TV at Crufts as they thought I was going to win best in show. Unfortunately I didn’t even win my class…but that’s dog showing for you.
I was on TV again on the quiz show 15 to 1 and managed to survive till the second round. I graduated onto Tipping point and won £2750.
…Thank you to Helen for such an entertaining afternoon and to Ian Low our Volunteer Host extraordinaire…