Sheffield poppy seller with 60 years service knows the importance of remembering the war

Pat Davey.
Pat Davey.

Pat Davey has been involved in the Sheffield poppy appeal for the last 60 years.

She was first enlisted in the late 1950s after innocently asking a poppy seller if she needed some help.

The next year the teenager was carrying the Legion’s women’s standard and the rest is history.

Now aged 79, she is chair of the Frechville and area Royal British Legion and along with her team organises the poppy appeal in the area.

Pat, of Owlthorpe, says with the centenary of the end of the First World War, this year’s appeal has seemed more like a full-time job than ever.

“When it is over we always say never again - but that only lasts five minutes,” she says.

“I have got a really good team behind me and the poppies sell themselves. 99 per cent of people are happy to a speak to us and want to buy them. It is a very happy atmosphere.”

As well as organising the poppy appeal, Pat also gives talks in schools and has been increasingly impressed by the youngsters’ knowledge of the First World War.

“Kids didn’t seem to know about things like the Christmas truce a few years ago but it is only by educating that we can stop it happening again,” she said.

“When I went to France with my mother to see the war graves I said if children saw this there would never be another war.”

“You can talk about hundreds of thousands or millions dying but until you go there and see all those white headstones it brings it home to you just what we owe to that generation.”

“My mum never knew her father - she was five months old when he was killed.

“In six and a half months my grandmother lost her husband and two brothers and my great-grandmother passed away shortly afterwards - everyone said she died of a broken heart.”

Coming from a military family, she was keen to serve herself but her father wouldn’t allow it.

Instead, she volunteered for the civil defence corps, at a time during the Cold War when the threat of the atomic bomb was ever present, working with an emergency ambulance crew to give her an idea of the kinds of things she would see should the unthinkable happen.

“I was always brought up with the idea of service, service, service,” said Pat.

“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do so I got involved with the Young Conservatives and tried to become a politician.”

At 21 she was too young to stand, but a few years later she was offered the chance to contest the Labour stronghold of Tinsley.

As expected, she lost, but eventually won in Norton in 1966 at the tender age of 27, going on to hold the seat for the Conservatives from 1966 to 1991.

“The Sheffield Star dubbed me ‘the baby of the council’,” she says.

The ruling Labour Party had been in power for more than 30 years and were ‘almost invincible’.

Nevertheless, there were still around 30 Conservative councillors, and they even took control of Sheffield in the late 60s - for one year.

This year, the Frechville and Area Royal British Legion celebrates its 70th anniversary.

Pat says a lot of the Legion members are ‘getting on a bit’ but this year they have had an influx of new members thanks to the WW1 centenary and some active recruitment at Crystal Peaks Shopping Centre.

“We have a very strong connection with the poppy appeal in this country,” she says.

“The volunteers don’t get a penny for doing it and all the money raised goes to the benefit of ex-service personnel and their families.

“I will carry on doing it as long as I can.”