District loses a guiding light

Christine Jackson, on the right, with Linda Handyside, left, at the opening of Simply Flowers by Mary Graham, Mayor of Alnwick, in September 1998.
Christine Jackson, on the right, with Linda Handyside, left, at the opening of Simply Flowers by Mary Graham, Mayor of Alnwick, in September 1998.

Communities in north Northumberland have lost one of their guiding lights, with the death of Christine Jackson.

The award-winning businesswoman, innovator and organiser died on November 7, at the age of 67.

Born in Berwick, she moved to Howick at the age of nine when her father became head gardener at Howick Hall.

While at Howick she met and married Raymond Sleightholm and gave birth to Simon. A few years later, she moved to Alnwick and, with her sister Maureen Ternent, took on the running of The Little Fruit Shop in Fenkle Street.

That was the start of her retail career which spanned the next 30 years.

Christine had always loved flowers, and she expanded the shop into the premises next door, calling it With Flowers. She went to North Tyneside College for three years to become a fully qualified florist.

She joined Alnwick Chamber of Trade which, in the early 1980s, still had an overall responsibility for Alnwick Fair.

She became Fair secretary and, in that role, she met David Jackson, also a retailer in the town, who became vice chairman and subsequently chairman. Christine followed David into the chair and became the Fair’s first woman chairman.

Christine and David married and moved to Howick.

Always an innovator as well as a great organiser, Christine instigated and attended a meeting between David, Melvyn Hornsby and Alan Lawson that resulted in the creation of the Alnwick Christmas Lights Committee.

When The Little Fruit Shop... With Flowers closed, Christine started the next stage of her retail career as manager of Tip Top and then Superdrug at Berwick. From there she became manager of Superdrug at Alnwick, and won the area title of Best Store in the Superdrug Premier Crew competition, initially with Berwick in 1991 and then with Alnwick in 1994, the only manager to achieve it with two stores.

She finished her Superdrug career as manager of its flagship store at the Metrocentre.

Having seen an opportunity in Alnwick, she persuaded her long-time friend and colleague Linda Handyside to leave Superdrug with her and set up a florist shop in Bondgate Within which they called Simply Flowers.

Christine and David took over the Old Rectory at Howick 12 years ago and turned it into a bed and breakfast. She worked tirelessly to upgrade it to 5-Star Gold Award, and was very proud to be classed as one of the top 4.6 per cent of B&Bs in the country.

Simply Flowers was sold 10 years ago but Christine continued to put her floristry skills to use by becoming the flower lady for Howick Church.

She was involved in the formation of the Howick Village Hall Committee. One of the uses she saw for the hall was for film shows, so she set about raising funds for a film projector. When that was achieved, thanks mainly to the fund-raising activities of Avril Meakin, Christine got John Roper and Julia Lavender involved in setting up two film clubs. In October, they held the first Howick International Film Festival.

She also loved singing, so it was natural that she should start a choir in the village hall in 2012, with David as the conductor, to put on a Christmas carol concert. It went so well that the Howick Coastal Choir was born, and has continued to perform ever since.

Christine sang with the altos until illness forced her to give up, but she organised the front of house and refreshments for all the concerts.

She will be remembered for her creative and innovative skills, her kindness to people and her loving nature.