Obituary - Sheila Whitehead

Sheila Whitehead photographed in 2010
Sheila Whitehead photographed in 2010

Sheila Whitehead’s life was one of service and commitment to her beloved Duns.

Whether it was chairing committees or campaigning for the town’s Summer Festival, she worked tirelessly throughout her life on behalf of a community that respected deeply the lasting contribution she made. She passed away peacefully on February 18, after a long illness, at the age of 76. 

Sheila Whitehead was born on June 22, 1938, at Dunslaw Farm, where generations of her family had worked. Her working life began as a civil servant in Newcastle, before moving back to Duns to join the Ministry of Pensions and National Insurance. After a short spell working in Galashiels she moved on to the Benefit Agency in Berwick until her retirement.

Elected Reivers Lass in 1960, this began an association with the Duns Summer Festival that would last a life time. It was perhaps though her chairmanship of the Summer Festival from 1985 to 2008 that will be her biggest legacy.

In that role she worked tirelessly every year to run the town’s festival celebrations. She liaised with community and religious leaders to ensure that every tradition was faithfully respected and that the community’s participation was increased.

Her strong beliefs in tradition and community were further bolstered by her years of active participation in the History Society, as an exam invigilator and as a paired reading assistant at the Duns Primary School. Sheila was also a tenant member of the Berwickshire Housing Association and also found the time to volunteer at Birch Hill Nursing Home in Norham.

Together with other community leaders Sheila was responsible for organising events in the town and wider region. Whether it was Reivers Week, the Wynsome Mayde celebrations or representing Duns around the Borders where she was very well known. Sheila never flinched from her duties and was always an approachable, enthusiastic and unmistakable member of the local community.

Personally, I have extremely fond memories of our many meetings together and I am indebted to her for the kind and calm way that she conducted herself in the many different roles she played. 

Sheila Whitehead passed away at the Garden House Nursing Home in Spittal where she was able to find peace and contentment in her latter years. She was buried in Duns following a funeral service in the Duns Parish Church on Monday (March 2).

Stuart Renton