Farewell to Pat, a true community stalwart

Pat Berry in her Newborough shop in 1992
Pat Berry in her Newborough shop in 1992

A well-known Scarborough businesswoman and charity stalwart has died at the age of 75.

Patricia Berry was the proprietor of Berry’s Leather Goods in Newborough for 20 years, changing the name from former owners Bickerdikes.

She died in St Catherine’s Hospice, for which she raised thousands of pounds even 
before it opened in 1985.

And in recognition of Pat’s efforts in the fight against Parkinson’s Disease, she was made a life member of Parkinson’s UK.

She was born in Solihull during a snowstorm when roads were blocked by drifts, and was delivered without help by her father, Robert Hird, who four weeks later was called up for military service. When the German bombers started attacking Birmingham her mother, Lillian, packed what she could carry and along with her elder brother Bob, Pat came by train to her grandmother’s house in St Mary’s Street, Scarborough, the town where she lived and worked for the rest of her life.

Pat was educated at Friarage Infants and Junior School, and at 11 won a scholarship to attend the Convent of the Ladies of Mary in Queen Street, despite not being a Catholic. Later, along with Pat Barber, she began organising annual reunions for the “old girls” – the Friends of Scarborough Convent – which still continue.

After finishing school she became a civil servant and was a tax collector, and it was in the local tax office where she first met her accountant husband, Peter, who was in the office complaining vociferously about a tax assessment one of his clients had received.

Two years later, in October 1960, they were married in St Mary’s Church, and had two children, Lisa and Adrian.

Pat was a natural entertainer, accomplished singer and dancer. One of the first pupils of the Benson Stage Academy, she was taught ballet and tap dancing by the late Mamie Benson, and later joined the Winnifred Ireland School of Dancing. A valued member of the Scarborough Amateur Operatic Society, during the 1950s she was in the Corps de Ballet in Oklahoma and King’s Rhapsody at the Open Air Theatre. She also had a leading role in 1961 in Sandy Powell’s musical The Boyfriend at the Arcadia Theatre.

Pat was a long-standing member and past president of the Inner Wheel, Soroptimist International. At the time she had her business she was the first female chairman and later president of the Scarborough Chamber of Trade. She was also a Weight Watchers lecturer in the 1970s.

She was an accomplished compere, and was especially in demand for charity fashion shows, where her knowledge of fashion and leather goods encouraged buyers.

Sixteen years ago Pat was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, and when checking with the national Parkinson’s Disease Society found that the area had no support branch.

She set about forming one, contacting other people with the disease, and became its first chairman, a post she held for 12 years, before its 
advancement meant she could no longer continue. During that time she campaigned to have a Parkinson’s specialist nurse appointed for Scarborough Hospital, and set about fundraising to pay for one for the first two years before the NHS took over the responsibility.

In recognition of her contribution, Parkinson’s UK made Pat a life member in 2008, which was presented to her at a conference by society chairman Steve Ford.

Her husband, Peter, was the first treasurer of St Catherine’s Hospice, a post he held for many years. He was the senior partner at Ashby Berry chartered accountants in Albemarle Crescent.

On their golden wedding anniversary, the couple, who lived in Hackness Road, asked for donations instead of gifts, with £925 split between the YMCA and the local branch of the Parkinson’s Society.

Pat is survived by her husband Peter, brother Bob, daughter Lisa, son-in-law Stephen, granddaughters Hattie and Lucy, son Adrian, daughter-in-law Vanessa and grandsons Henry, Toby and Hugh. A memorial service took place at St Laurence’s Church, Scalby, on Friday November 27, followed by a private cremation at Woodlands Crematorium.