Tributes to former Blackpool singer and Rosemere volunteer Bernadette Wilson, who has died of lung cancer, aged 74

Bernadette Wilson in her younger years as a singer
Bernadette Wilson in her younger years as a singer

The memory of popular musical entertainer who appeared on TV show Opportunity Knocks will live on, as the community remembers Bernadette Wilson.

The 74-year-old from Longton, who sang in Blackpool and had regularly shared a bill with the likes of comedians Little and Large and Tom O’Connor, died of lung cancer last month.

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette Wilson

Bernadette was also well known in the community for her charity support, as up until her cancer diagnosis last June, she had worked for 10 years every other Monday as a volunteer in the coffee shop at Rosemere Cancer Centre, at the Royal Preston Hospital.

A keen and skilled knitter, she also began using her craftsmanship to create knitted Christmas and Easter novelties – cosy-type Christmas puddings, snowmen, chicks, rabbits and eggs that hid chocolates - which she sold to cancer centre patients, staff and visitors, raising £17,000 for Rosemere Cancer Foundation.

The charity’s chief officer Dan Hill, who was among the hundreds of former work colleagues, friends and family members to attend her funeral at Longton’s St Oswald’s Church, pays tribute, saying: “Bernadette was an amazing lady, who worked selflessly for others throughout her life. She had a huge heart, which made her a very popular member of the coffee shop team.

“She will be sadly missed for her kindness, generosity and sense of humour.

“As well as her charity work, Bernadette’s family was everything to her.

“She will leave a great hole in many people’s hearts and lives. Heaven has gained one of the best.”

Her eldest daughter Louise Conway, of Chorley, says: “Mum was a real people person.

“She was so well known everywhere she went.

“She just loved being with people, making them laugh and entertaining them; though more importantly, being kind and caring for everyone she met.

“She liked to keep busy and never said no to anyone.

“She became a coffee shop volunteer through a friend. She and my dad Maurice married in 1965.

“They had a wonderful life together, travelling around the world and especially enjoying the many cruises they went on together.

“More recently, dad was diagnosed with dementia but mum still kept on with her coffee shop shifts, taking dad with her so that she could work and still look after him.”

Bernadette, who formerly worked as a retail assistant at the city centre branches of Booths, M&S and Owen & Owen’s, also sang on Lancashire’s working men’s clubs circuit from the 1960s to 1980s.

She regularly shared a bill with the likes of comedians Little and Large and Tom O’Connor.

Like them, she appeared on the ITV talent show Opportunity Knocks, becoming known as the Singing Housewife.

Her success on the programme led her to being offered a summer season in Blackpool.

Louise adds: “I have great memories of mum singing on stage in Blackpool and at local clubs, whilst my younger sister Catherine and I enjoyed a glass of Coke and sometimes, a game of bingo.

“She kept up her singing with singing at many weddings, including those of both her daughters, and she was always heard by all the congregation at St Oswald’s singing her favourite hymns.

“A recording of her singing Ave Maria was played at her funeral, so it was lovely that the church was so packed to hear her one last time. As a friend of mine said, it was a beautiful service; you could feel the outpouring of love.”

As well as her husband Maurice and two daughters, Bernadette’s immediate family includes grandchildren Joe, 22, Caitlin, 19, Abigail, 16 and 14-year-old Tabatha.