Country music lover Heather was ‘the backbone of her family’

COUNTRY LOVER ... Heather Gateshill, centre, with Pauline Laidler and Pat Penman at the Hitchin Rail Country Club.
COUNTRY LOVER ... Heather Gateshill, centre, with Pauline Laidler and Pat Penman at the Hitchin Rail Country Club.

A FAMILY has paid tribute to a wonderful and loving South Tyneside grandmother who died suddenly while on holiday.

Popular Heather Gateshill, 66, was a well-known figure in South Shields for her love of country music and children.

Tragically, she died from a heart attack while surrounded by her family on holiday at Ardeals Lake in Malaga, Spain, on August 9.

Mrs Gateshill’s body was flown back to England on Thursday and her funeral was due to be held at South Shields Crematorium today.

Her husband of 50 years, Allen, 69, of the Lawe Top, South Shields, said: “Everyone knew Heather. She was the backbone of the family and loved by all.

“At the start of the summer holidays the family had gone over to Spain as normal, as we have a house there, and we’d been out for the day to the lake. She loved it there.

“She hadn’t felt too well in the morning and was sitting in the shade. She actually said ‘I think I’m having a heart attack’. I said ‘don’t be daft’ but, she was.

“Because of where we were in the mountains, it was hard for the emergency services to get to us, but I must say, the Spanish people were all lovely.

“Heather died in a place that she loved. She would always be taking people to the lake, she thought it was beautiful there.”

Born in Greens Place, South Shields, Mrs Gateshill was the third youngest of nine children.

After leaving Baring Street School, she worked at a grocers in Broughton Road, South Shields, before meeting Allen in 1963, through friends at a dance in Biddick Hall.

Together they raised daughters Mandy, 50, and Dawn, 47.

During this time Mrs Gateshill had a range of jobs, which included working at bookmakers Ladbrokes, owning two wool shops at the bottom of Mile End Road, and being employed at Cigarette Components in Jarrow.

She later trained as an auxiliary nurse – working at the old Deans Hospital, and spent many years on Ward 19, at South Tyneside District Hospital.

Daughter Mandy said: “Mam was always busy doing something, and whenever you went round you ended up getting fed by her.

“If you were sad, you left laughing, that’s just the way she was, she solved everyone’s problems. She was a devoted mother, but she could talk people into doing anything for her.”

Heather, who was grandmother to Caitlin, 18, Abigail, 16, Sherena, 13, and Jessica, 10, was a massive country music fan.

With her sister, Pauline Laidler, and friend Patsy Penman, the trio initially ran Cactus Jack’s, a weekly music session at the Companions Club, off Mile End Road, and then created Hitchen Rail, which took place every Thursday at the Top Club at Westoe, until three years ago.

Pauline, 62, said: “We’d always loved country music, since we were children, so we got together to create these weekly events.

“Woe betide anyone who called us a line-dancing club. Heather would take great offence at that.

“We’d have a great time. Bands from across the region would perfrom, and Heather would always be wearing a hat - she had one for every occasion.”

Heather also loved to cook, and every Sunday at 2pm the whole family would flock to her house for a Sunday roast.

Mr Gateshill said: “Sometimes there used to be second sittings.

“Everyone always turns up on a Sunday. Mind, if you weren’t there at 2pm prompt, there would be trouble.

“She was a great cook, she always had something on the go and she loved making birthday cakes.

“Our house was like an open house, there would constantly be people streaming in and out coming to see her.”

Pauline added: “Heather was beautiful inside and out. She was just a breath of fresh air.”