LAST month saw the untimely death after a short illness of Sheila McNaught, founder of the multi-award winning Newton Stewart Mini Major Twirlette troupe.
Sheila was brought up in the Lochmaben area and, after being schooled at Lockerbie Academy, she landed a job as a telephonist with the Post Office in the old Dumfries exchange. It was during this time she met her husband, John, who also worked with the Post Office as a telegram messenger.
Romance blossomed and they married in 1968, taking up residence in the Thornhill area. First Michelle and then Michael were born before John joined Dumfries and Galloway Constabulary. Ailleen followed before the family were moved to Annan, then Eaglesfield and Gretna before returning in 1978 to Annan when along came the baby of the family, Keriann, in 1983 before the family were on the move again, this time to Newton Stewart on John’s promotion to sergeant.
The family settled into Newton Stewart life and, with the girls particularly interested in baton twirling, Sheila decided to form a local troupe. Thus the now well known and well respected Mini Majors were born.
Sheila put her life and soul into the Troupe, which at one stage numbered more than 50 athletes and, over the course of time, hundreds of youngsters, boys and girls, have been part of the Mini Majors set-up. Most, if not all of them, still talk about the significant positive influence and impact that Sheila made on their lives.
As well as making many friends along the way, Sheila gained the respect of so many local youngsters, many of whom are now adults but still called her Mrs McNaught, with some of the more recent ones knowing her only as Nana Sheila. Her work with the Mini Majors took up much of her spare time but she enjoyed every minute of it, particularly taking the youngsters to competitions, galas and displays all over Britain. The highlights of each year, though, were the regular trips to Portsmouth for the British Baton Twirling Sports Association Individual Finals and the Team Finals in Great Yarmouth, which saw her youngsters taking many national awards, at the same time as being the top troupe in Dumfries and Galloway.
At home, though, the highlight was more light-hearted when the annual display took place and the boot was put on the other foot when the parents became the Maxi Majors and put on a display of a kind to entertain the youngsters amid a great deal of hilarity, excitement and laughter. Many parents, some now grandparents, will remember with joy the adult fancy dress routines that Sheila made up and they took part in on the fun nights at Caister Holiday Camp as well as performing locally.
Many friendships were formed by being in the troupe – for parents too. When the parents socialised Sheila was always in the thick of things making sure everyone enjoyed themselves. These were great days for everybody and will be fondly remembered by many who have since shown their gratitude by referring to Sheila as a truly lovely and special lady who has had a great influence on their own lives. Sheila was extremely proud of her Mini Majors and everyone associated with the troupe was very proud of her. Although taken very quickly following a short illness it was always her wish that even in her absence the Mini Majors continued.
Although Sheila ran and trained her twirlers for many years, she was really a very private person who did not suffer fools gladly. She was hard-working, dedicated and devoted. She very proud of her husband and family and led by example to strive for the best for them all to be good citizens and home-makers. She adored her children with never a cross word between them and kept in touch nearly every day to make sure everything was okay, although they are now adults with families of their own.
She greatly loved and was much loved in return by all her grandchildren with her influence and devotion making a mark on them. She was never short of advice for the family, particularly John, and set high standards now evident in their everyday lives.
She bore her short illness with dignity and until the end refused to complain or cause others what she felt was an unnecessary burden on them.
Sheila was a special lady who has left her mark on many people, especially close friends, and she will be sadly missed but never forgotten by all who had the pleasure of knowing her.
Dear Sheila, “when will we see your likes again?”