SELSEY’S sweetheart Lorna Priddis died at the age of 93 last week. Hugh Graham paid tribute to the ‘magnificent’ woman, and spoke about her remarkable life in the seaside town.
“For all those who knew and loved her and for all those who saw her in the more than 50 shows she produced for the Selsey Variety Club she founded, directed and organised, the really sad news is that Lorna Priddis took her final curtain call at the age of 93.
“I knew this magnificent lady for nearly 50 years and even in her 90s she sparkled like vintage champagne, bubbling with a wonderful enthusiasm for any project she embraced – most of which were local charities – all of whom have benefited hugely from her fundraising.
“Lorna Priddis died peacefully in Tenchley Manor, a nursing home in Ursula Square, Selsey during the first week in July, but for most of her life had lived in a Clayton Road townhouse looking out over the sea.
“She was probably best known in Selsey for founding, directing and organising the Selsey Variety Club and for putting on more than 50 shows, all of which raised huge sums for local charities.
“She has always been busy, never more so than when, at the height of Michael Barrymore’s television career, she succeeded in upstaging the then TV superstar when she appeared as a guest on his show and had the audience falling about, as she was dressed as a bee and singing ‘I’m just a bee, a busy, busy bee’.
“Being as busy as a bee actually sums up Lorna’s life pretty accurately. She came to live in Selsey in 1971, when she was teaching at Rose Green Primary School, having previously worked as a governess in Hong Kong.
“She had also worked in what was then a British colony as a ‘Forces Sweetheart’, shortly after the war – where she was mainly involved in preventing the triads from ripping off American servicemen. She was so successful the villains sent her several death threats – which, naturally, she treated with contempt.
“Guestimates for the amount she has raised for charity have varied, but the various charities which have benefited from Lorna’s efforts have calculated the sum involved cannot have been less than £100,000.
“Lorna was a great trouper and thoroughly enjoyed every village event, but particularly the Selsey Carnival every summer. Most ladies in their 80s are content to settle back to enjoy a comfortable retirement. Not Lorna.
“Every Wednesday and Saturday, she was easily found, and heard, busking outside WH Smith’s in Chichester’s North Street, wearing a variety of extravagant costumes and shaking her collecting tins in the faces of passers-by, most of whom were very happy to part with a pound or two for whichever charity she was supporting. One of her favourite charities was the Snak Shak and she was delighted to cut the tape when the new premises opened six years ago.
“Most of those who helped Lorna with her fundraising activities believe she should have featured in one of the honours’ lists many years ago. Recognition of her contributions was considerably delayed, so all her admirers were very well pleased when she received her ‘Help the Aged Gold Award’ from Princess Diana.
“Lorna celebrated her 90th birthday In January 2011, at which point she had lost none of her enthusiasm for life, but was, at last, showing one or two signs of slowing down. During the last two or three years, she regularly held court at The Riviera where she enjoyed a pensioners’ lunch.
“Looking back over a lifetime of helping others she once told me: “I began helping others when I was teaching just after the war. I’ve been very well blessed with health and happiness, so I like to help as many others as I can.”
Her funeral is on Friday, July 18, at 3pm in St Peter’s Church, High Street, Selsey.