Posted 8th February 2017 by Maggie Clowes

Mayoress RecognisedMrs Ann Heelis was the first woman to be awarded the Freedom of Appleby in recognition of her work in the town in the first World War. Her husband was Mayor throughout the war and she gave him her whole-hearted support. It was well known that without her encouragement he could not have carried on.

By the end of 1914 she had set up a working party to knit and sew comforts for the troops. An early fund-raising event in Bongate at which she sang gave half the funds it raised to pay for more materials.

Mayoress RecognisedShe organised parcels for prisoners of war, as this cutting from a local newspaper explains. The fact that he asks for bread really emphasises how efficient the postal system was at the time otherwise the bread would have been very stale.

N.B. Lance Corporal Faughey does not appear on any of the lists of Appleby men serving.

Private Whitehead was an Appleby man


Her sister-in-law, Miss Marion Heelis was the leading organiser of the VAD movement in Appleby so it is not surprising that Mrs Heelis trained and served 60 hours at the Red House Convalescent Hospital. She was an active participant in many of the fetes and concerts held to raise money and it was noted that she sang “Home, Sweet Home” at the evening event which welcomed home the returning soldiers.


Mayoress RecognisedTwo other ladies merit mention. Mrs Sybil Heelis, the wife of |Captain George, worked in the hospital for a total of 300 hours, cooking or caring for linen while her niece, the Mayor’s daughter, Sylvester put in 350 hours and was still working in June 1919. Not content with that, her name appears regularly on concert programmes. Early on in 1915 a grand entertainment was held in the public hall in aid of war funds. In co-operation with Miss Perry, teacher at the council school, she wrote an operetta called Elfinsong which was performed by a cast of 12 pupils supported by a chorus of elves. In 1918 a concert to raise money for the Prisoners of War fund opened with a musical play performed by children from the council School. Not only did she write it but she played the piano accompaniment too. Before that she had been recruited by the indefatigable Mrs Riving ton to take part in one of her concerts - on this occasion she played the viola and sang.