Shirley Woodhead Remembered

As we are in the month of June, the birthday month of our dear departed friend Shirley , I thought it was an appropriate time to send you these lovely words written below by her very good friend Judith Lonsdale , who was also a long term committee member and who worked alongside Shirley making the club what it is, for many years. The photograph was taken by Sue Emsley, also a long term committee member. It was taken at Bramham Horse Trials when Shirley was writing for the conformation judge for BYEH class in 2016, a job she did over many years. Here she is pictured having a lovely moment with Sue’s dog Saffy. Animals always went to Shirley, they loved and trusted her, as did we.

Shirley lived all her life on land near Pudsey where her grandfather built two houses on a hill overlooking Leeds. She and her sister, Daphne, grew up with ponies and horses which they showed and jumped. They later bred some of their own, so Shirley accumulated a fund of knowledge based on sound experience and acute observation. There was also at one time a pig who in the days before AI had to be taken to visit the boar – sometimes quite an undertaking.
On top of commitments to horses and family Shirley also ran The Woolshop which was locally celebrated and well-loved. As well as selling 4-ply it often seemed to serve as an unofficial psychotherapy centre: Shirley understood the value of Talking Therapy long before it became mainstream and it was probably this that enabled her to be so understanding of people’s foibles. On her retirement from The Woolshop Shirley homed two retired race mares, her Ladies, whom she adored, and indulged her love of plants and gardening, along with stints of making and renovating furniture, fencing, walling, stacking hay as and when required.
Shirley was always very involved in the Riding Club movement, first as a mounted participant and then behind the scenes. She was a member of the prestigious Aire Valley Riding Club along with Eric Ellis and Susan Caley, before helping to found the Harewood Combined Training Group in around 1976. She was Treasurer almost from the start and as well as keeping the finances under control she grew to be a vital source of sense and stability, never losing sight of the clubs core aims and principles, and quietly keeping a steady hand on the tiller. Although she was never ever heard to say anything nasty about anyone she was no plaster saint. and we will all remember various endearing eccentricities. In the days of The Woolshop most of her HCTG accounts were written on paper bags, added up in her head, and always correct. Only once, to her lasting shame, did she lose £10, and from that day a duplicate receipt book appeared. At the AGM there would be a long line of people waiting to pay their subs while
Shirley meticulously entered each payment and issued the receipt. It would be nearly eleven before she got that blessed cup of tea (all cakes long since disappeared), then she would roll up her sleeves to help with the washing up.
Another idiosyncrasy: she would never tell her age, even when one daring club member asked her point blank, and there were some difficulties and delays with official forms because of this. Well, the secret is out now, and it probably only makes us admire her achievements more, especially over the last few years.

Sorry Shirley, you would have hated to be the centre of attention like this, but we all miss you and want to remember you, so you’ll have to put up with it.