Black Country author Nellie dies at 105 after testing positive for Covid-19

Nellie Sidaway, who in her 80s was persuaded to write her memoirs detailing her Black Country upbringing, has died in a nursing home aged 105 several days after testing positive for coronavirus.

Ellen Sidaway with her great-grandson Thomas
Ellen Sidaway with her great-grandson Thomas

She was born Ellen Taylor at Hay Green, Lye – where she was to live all her life – on June 3, 1914, just a few weeks before the start of the Great War.

Nellie left school at the age of 14 to become a dressmaker in Birmingham and was a seamstress all her working life.

Seven-year-old Ellen, back row, right, at Stambermill Junior School in 1921

Her book, The Memoirs of Ellen Sidaway, was written at the age of 84.

"After languishing in the desk drawer for 20 years they were published in June 2017 for her 103rd birthday," said son Colin.

"She was thrilled to see her life story in book form. Her memoirs are the story of just an ordinary girl living and growing up in a bygone age in the Black Country."

As a youngster Nellie joined the Girl Guides, being made a patrol leader, and was in the chorus when they put on operettas, the biggest show being staged at Stourbridge Town Hall. After their various practices it was too early to go home, so they would hang about the High Street and it was there on a Saturday night that she saw future husband Stan Sidaway for the first time.

She was 15 – but had already been working for a year – and he was 18.

Teenage Ellen Taylor, left, as an attendant to carnival queen Gladys Price at the 1930 Lye carnival

“He stood in a shop doorway and as we passed he offered me some chocolate which I refused and carried on,” she recalled in her memoirs.

Her mother opposed their developing relationship, but Ellen continued to see him behind her back until she was caught and had to break up with him.

But her mother's attitude changed after Stan fell seriously ill with pneumonia, and young Ellen was at his bedside as he hovered between life and death.

Stan and Ellen wed at Stambermill Church on November 14, 1936. Ellen made her own dress.

Marriage to Stan at Stambermill Church on November 14, 1936

Colin, who lives in Harrogate, said of his mother: "She grew up and went to school in the 1920s, worked and married in the 1930s, and managed to get through the war and austerity years of the 1940s.

"Then there was the hope and growing aspirations in the 1950s, and apparent wealth in the 1960s where she and her husband, Stan, had driving adventures around Europe.

"Stan had a stroke in the 1970s, and she had an extended family in the 1980s before coming to terms with life living alone."

Colin said that although his mother tested positive for coronavirus they did not know for sure if that was the cause of death, and she had been very frail immediately before the lockdown.

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