Ponteland loses a community stalwart

Mary Short put together great flower displays in the garden at Athol House.
Mary Short put together great flower displays in the garden at Athol House.

A woman who was well-known in Ponteland, where she lived for all of her 78 years, has died.

Always cheerful, full of go and either gardening or baking, Mary Short hardly ever paused.

Her last 26 years were spent at Athol House, where her gardening enthusiasm resulted in the most colourful displays and eventually to Gold awards in the Northumbria in Bloom annual competition.

Mary Dowson was born into a family who lived at the Old Mill, now demolished.

She was one of six children born to William Dowson – three were to his first wife and after her death he married Mary’s mother.

Conditions were primitive and cramped. There was no mill machinery but a wheel remained.

The family kept hens, ducks and goats and over the river they had a vegetable garden and fruit trees.

In 1953, the Dowsons moved to a new council house on Kirkley Drive.

Mary attended Coates School and in 1952 she went to work for Miss Smith at the Dairy Cafe on the West Road, where she was a ‘Maid of all Work’.

This included cooking, cleaning, gardening, looking after all the animals, milking the cow, making the ice cream and serving the customers.

Trips came out from town to enjoy a day in the country and Mary was always busy supplying their needs.

The parish council bought the land in 1965 and the buildings were pulled down, but Miss Smith continued to live in Pont Croft, looked after by Mary.

But Mary needed to earn some money and took a part time job at the newsagents on Merton Way in 1972.

She met Joe Short and they became engaged, but did not marry for years.

Eventually in 1989, they tied the knot at St Matthew’s Roman Catholic Church but Joe only lived a few months longer.

They had moved into Athol House and this was home to Mary for the rest of her life.

Two village traders will miss Mary very much. She was a regular visitor to William Hill and liked the excitement of placing a bet on the big race.

She placed a bet one day on a horse because the jockey was a woman and when it won she gathered her winnings and went straight to Billy Wilson’s to buy some plants for the garden at Athol House. She liked the colour purple.

Mary was generous with her time and talents and residents will miss her colourful gardens as they pass Athol House on Callerton Lane.

She was a loyal worshipper and stalwart of St Matthew’s Church – helping others, baking cakes and scones and of course helping with the garden and flowers.

She enjoyed the outings arranged by Father Vincent Melia and she thrived on the fellowship and companionship of her fellow Catholics and will be greatly missed.

A Requiem Mass was held to celebrate her life. It was conducted by Father Seamus O’Kane.