Story: Derrick Okrah
Burngreave resident Jackie Drayton has just finish serving her term as Lord Mayor and is enjoying quality time with family. Jackie kindly showed the Messenger into her beautiful and magnificent garden, before telling us about her year as Sheffield’s Ambassador.
Jackie is a wonderful woman with a passion for humanitarian needs. When asked what it was like being a Lord Mayor, she said:
“It was really an honour to be called upon to serve the people of Sheffield. It’s like fostering a child; you have to make sure you do everything to the best of your ability for that child within that short period of time. You also have to be ready to give the child up, and now I’ve handed Sheffield on to the next Mayor.”
Meeting and greeting
During her year in office, Jackie attended to more than 1500 appointments. In the nine weeks before Christmas Jackie didn’t take one day off. Her ambassador role included giving speeches about Sheffield’s history, opening events and visits in and outside Sheffield.
“I tried to fit in any requests to visit or open an event. Every appointment was important – it might have been my fifth of the day, but I had to remember that it was their first and I had to give it my best.”
The Lord Mayor chooses charities to support during the year. Jackie’s charities were the Cavendish Cancer Care Centre, a local domestic abuse project and the Kashmir Earthquake Relief Fund appeal to rebuild a Girls College, after the earthquake which resulted in the deaths of more than 10,000 people in the town. In the Girls College alone 288 pupils and teachers died.
When asked about why she chose the Kashmir charity she said:
“The people of Kashmir were left with nothing to hold on to, their food,properties, families were all devastated on that day.I felt I had to do something on behalf of the people of Sheffield for these people.”
In April Jackie visited Kashmir and laid the foundation stone for the Girls College. She was welcomed like a “queen”, she and the delegation she was part of were escorted by armed police wherever they went. Jackie was amazed to find people still learning from books at the side of the road and taking exams in temporary buildings, sitting on plastic chairs and leaning on cardboard.
“We could see the potential of the proposed new building straight away.The College only has girls for part of the day so the building would be empty half the time. It’s possible boys may use the college as well or that a community library can be set up for everyone.”
(See ‘Visit to Kashmir’ for more information about this trip).
Jackie explained how this was not the first time Sheffield had helped another country in their time of need. During her Mayorship she visited Serre in France where the Sheffield City Battalion or the ‘Pals’ fought and died in 1916. The town was badly damaged by the fierce fighting of the first world.
“In 1929 the Lord Mayor raised money from the people of Sheffield to build the memorial in the village of Serre to the men of the City Battalion; they also built several homes and a school, which are still standing.”
When asked whether she would remember anyone in particular Jackie said she would always remember everyone she met and the fun and laughs they shared together.
“I realised that there are many ordinary people doing extraordinary things.”
However, one of Jackie’s best memories was of meeting Britain’s first astronaut, Sheffield born Helen Sharman, who spent 8 days on the Mir Space station in May 1991 as part of the Soviet space mission project Juno.
Jackie will continue to support her charities, especially the school building she began in Kashmir.
“I will be going to Kashmir every year to see the progress of the building and I’m actively involved with the two other charities as well as giving time to my councillor work.”
The Kashmir Earthquake Relief Fund has raised £42,000 so far. It is estimated that the College will cost over £300,000 to build. To donate, contact Kashmir Education Trust on 244 9910, or at Abbeyfield Park House, Sheffield S4 7AT.