Barrow fire tragedy gran’s home was ‘heaven on earth’

The late Mrs Nellie Shaw. (s)
The late Mrs Nellie Shaw. (s)
  • Nellie started working life in mill
  • Opened fish and chip shop in Rishton
  • Dream come true moving to Ribble Valley farmhouse
  • Married to Philip for almost 63 years

Tributes have been paid to a Ribble Valley grandmother who died after a recent fire at her home in Barrow.

A funeral was held on Friday for Mrs Nellie Shaw (84) who was killed when a ferocious fire tore through her large detached house, in Whalley Road, earlier this month.

Since the tragedy, tributes have been pouring in from family, friends and local residents who remember Nellie as a “kind” and “well-liked” person.

Born in Lees, Oldham, on June 4th 1930 to Albert and Margaret Ann Fletcher, Nellie was the youngest of four siblings and sister to the late Arthur, Walter and Jack.

In common with many of her era, Nellie left school at 14 to begin work at a local cotton mill as a winder and then a weaver.

Aged 17, Nellie met Philip Shaw at Billington Dance Hall and after courting for five years, they were married and set up home in a little cottage at Grasscroft, near Oldham.

Both Philip and Nellie believed in working hard and saving hard. For years they lived off Philip’s wage whilst saving Nellie’s.

Nellie’s eldest brother Arthur was living in Rishton at the time, and through him they heard of a business that was for sale. Hopping on their Triumph 500cc motorbike, they headed off and bought themselves a fish and chip shop.

With Philip in charge of the frying and Nellie in charge of the customers, Shaw’s Fish and Chips or “Nellie’s” as it became known, at 90 High Street, Rishton, went from strength to strength. People regularly queued down the street for their chips with children often enjoying “free scraps” from the kind couple.

Together they ran the shop for 34 years living on the premises and bringing up their three children, David, Peter and Jo-Anne.

In 1981 Nellie and Philip’s dream came true when, after many years aspiring to live in the Ribble Valley, family days out were always to the area, they bought Barrow Garden Farm; Nellie’s “heaven on earth”. Son Peter was doing his greenkeeper apprenticeship at Clitheroe Golf Club and had seen that the farm had come up for sale.

Nellie loved the countryside, nature, birds and animals and the added bonus was they inherited their very own donkey – Kelly.

Here Nellie kept chickens and sold the eggs at the farm gate and in the shop. She fed the birds religiously and kept fit walking her beloved German Shepherd dogs Rhana 1 and Rhana 2.

Part of the success of the business was undoubtedly due to Nellie’s warm, welcoming and friendly personality. She always greeted people with a smile and insisted her children did likewise.

Nellie could chat away to anyone and drew customers from far and wide. She even had the Great Harwood Male Voice Choir serenading her whilst they waited for their supper.

Generosity was another of Nellie’s qualities. A great hoarder who never threw anything away. “Waste not want not” was one of her many sayings or “Nellieisms” as her family like to call them. Rarely did anyone visit her home and leave empty handed after being told to “take what you want” whether it be clothes or apples from the orchard.

Nellie and Philip did everything together. Married for 63 years almost, their wedding anniversary would have been on Sunday March 15th, they worked together and played together with golf being one of their shared interests. Members at both Rishton and Clitheroe golf clubs, Nellie was very proud of the many trophies they had won and that she had got a “hole in one” at Rishton.

The couple followed their children to wherever they were living. Their first trip abroad was to Portugal to see David which they loved. When he later moved to Austria they also visited him there. They also went to see their son Peter in Germany. Visiting daughter Jo-Anne in California they travelled the Pacific Coast Highway.

However, at heart Nellie was a homebody and was quite content to stay at home in her own piece of heaven. Visitors were always made welcome and treated to a cup of tea and one of her home made ginger biscuits or slices of apple pie, which turned out different every time as she never followed a recipe.

Nellie loved her family dearly and she was immensely proud of her children and grandchildren. A grandmother-of-seven to Lauren, Justin, Jason, Olivia, Nicholas, Moritz and Malwin, she was always asking about them and her house was adorned with their photographs.

Nellie enjoyed the simple things in life and loved nothing more than sitting in her summerhouse, looking at all God’s creatures and enjoying the sunsets.

Nellie’s husband, Philip, who managed to escape the blaze, is recovering with family after being treated in hospital for smoke inhalation. An inquest into Nellie’s death has been opened and adjourned until April 23rd.