A Tribute to my sister: Joan Blencowe 1953 – 2011

It was a cold, grey misty morning in 1958 when my sister Joan and I woke up in our bunk beds and looked through the porthole of our ship as a small tug boat was guiding us into Southampton Docks.

It was all a huge contrast to the heat of the tropics where we had embarked at Cartagena, South America and visited Cuba, Haiti, Jamaica and Bermuda as we crossed the Atlantic to England. Our father, Harry Gough Blencowe, worked long hours in South America so we could make our home on the Isle of Man.

When she started school, Joan showed an early talent for Arithmetic, Nature and Art. She loved to study caterpillars, beetles and snails and quickly learned the botanical names of flowers.

When Joan studied for a degree in Art and Technology in Cheltenham, our parents moved the family home there.

Joan attended Wye College, obtaining a MSC in Landscape Architecture. Her “digs” were at the Archbishop of Canterbury's residence. His family made Joan very welcome and it was there that she deepened her interest in Christianity.

Joan's career began as a Landscape Architect, working in London and then in Liverpool. Joan wanted to move away from city life, so when she was accepted as a Landscape Architect in Barnsley, she came to live with me in Meltham, West Yorkshire, until she bought the original Lodge to Lascelles Hall in Kirkheaton.

Joan ran her own Arts and Crafts business and began professional photography assignments.

Joan remained passionate about the preservation of the countryside. She took photos for the National Trust, always retaining her interest in landscape architecture.

In 2001, Joan found out she had Cancer, so I began running for Cancer Research UK, and she came to the events. One of my happiest memories is of Joan at Race for Life in Harrogate. Her hair was growing again. She smiled at one of the survivors and said “I'm a survivor too”.

I will run the Edinburgh Marathon 2012 and the Great North Run this September 2011 for Cancer Research UK to remember Joan.

As Joan loved dancing, especially ballet and Scottish dancing, it was fitting that she be remembered with a ‘Ceilidh’. On July 2, 2011 the commemoration began with a walk around Kirkheaton; past the picturesque church, Joan's Lodge House and the fields and lanes that she loved.

Later that evening, there was a Ceilidh in Huddersfield in memory of Joan. Some of Joan's photographs were displayed as well as newspaper clippings from years gone by and photos of Joan and by her depicting her life and adventures. More were displayed on a laptop by Francis, the man she would have married. There was a sale in aid of charity of the jewellery and cards she made.

The event was beautifully planned with a band playing Scottish music. All agreed that Joan's optimistic spirit and love of fun was there for us all.

Catherine Blencowe
West Yorkshire