Jean Blackburn

JEAN Blackburn, who has died aged 101, was a talented artist and calligrapher, and was also believed to be the oldest surviving contributor to a former Yorkshire Post column.

Until relatively recently she was still creating her own greetings cards and was noted for her impeccable script.

For nearly two decades from the early 1970s she wrote anecdotes, often about her life as a farmer’s wife, which she sent to the Yorkshire Post’s whimsical Northerner column, in which she was referred to as “Mrs B”. On one occasion she appeared in a cartoon linked to the column. She also wrote a number of articles for the Dalesman magazine.

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She was born in Hull, the second of four children of Christian Thirsk who worked in Customs and Excise, and Clara neé Chapman. Her older brother, David, who was an RAF navigator in Lancaster bombers during the Second World War, was killed in action in 1943.

During the First World War, Mrs Blackburn’s father served with the East Yorkshire Regiment and in 1915, following Zeppelin raids on Hull, he wrote to his wife and told her to leave the city and find somewhere else to live. She moved the family to Beverley where they stayed until 1930, being joined by her husband at the end of the war.

Mrs Blackburn was educated at Beverley High School and Hull College of Art where she studied industrial design and calligraphy. She then worked in a shop in Hull selling cards, some of which she also designed, and for a short period before she married opened a shop in Beverley market.

In 1935 she married Arthur Blackburn who worked on a farm, having met him when he visited Beverley’s then Baptist Church when his brother arrived as the new pastor.

After their marriage they rented Lead Hall Farm at Saxton, near Tadcaster, close to the site of the Battle of Towton in 1461, one of the battles in the Wars of the Roses.

Standing alone in one of their fields was the 12th century St Mary’s Church, a small chapel which in 1931 was saved from neglect by a local group of ramblers and is now well known as the Ramblers’ Church. It has been redundant since 1980 and is cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

When Mrs Blackburn and her husband retired from the mixed farm they moved to Grantley, near Ripon, where she continued to live after her husband’s death until only a few months ago.

She had joined the Women’s Institute during the couple’s farming days and continued her membership in Grantley. She was also a member of the Liberal Democrat party.

Mrs Blackburn who never had a serious illness or operation in her life, has bequeathed 
her body to medical science 
at Leeds University Medical School.

She is survived by her two daughters, her son, three grandchildren and two great grandchildren, and by her younger brother and sister.