Wonderful, remarkable and inspirational Ethel

Ethel Christine Tootell worked on a tripe dressers at Chorley market
Ethel Christine Tootell worked on a tripe dressers at Chorley market

A family woman famous for her 40-year stint running a stall on Chorley market has lost her battle with cancer.

Ethel Christine Tootell worked on a tripe dressers stall selling tripe, black pudding and cow heel with her husband Bill, before retiring in 1994.

She appeared in the Chorley Guardian (pictured) when she decided to leave that part of her life behind, and walked away with a crystal vase and fruit bowl from her fellow traders.

Son Christopher said: “Dad’s occupation was a tripe dresser, and this meant that mum, when she wasn’t raising children, worked on the family stall on Chorley Market.

“She was often referred to as the ‘Tripe Lady’ and she became a regional celebrity when she was interviewed by Bob Greaves for Granada Reports.

“The stall played a central part in all the family’s lives and we always knew there had been a bad day’s business if we got extra black tripe for tea on a Tuesday.”

The mum-of-four, who had 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren, moved to Chorley from Colchester to be with Bill, who she met during the war.

“Mum had many wartime stories, and my favourite was of the unexploded incendiary bomb that was dropped during the Blitz, which landed on the front garden path,” Christopher said. “The family had unknowingly been walking over (it) the previous night in the dark.

“My mum met my dad when he was a soldier stationed at the Colchester barracks. They married in April 1947, meaning that at the age of 20, mum left her hometown of Colchester and moved to Chorley; the next chapter of her life.”

When the couple first moved to the town, they lived with family friends at a house in Yarrow Road, where they had their first daughter, Sylvia.

They shortly moved house to Bolton Street, where two more daughters, Pat and Lynn, came along, and later moved to the family home at Millfield Road, and had Christopher. Ethel’s early years were spent living in a terraced house with two rooms downstairs and two upstairs, with a long garden with a lavatory which they shared with the house next door.

Her three brothers shared one room upstairs, while she shared the other room with her sister and parents.

Christopher said: “This was at a time of high unemployment, money was not plentiful, and small amounts of food had to be made to go along way.

“But my mum remembered these days with great fondness, recounting tales of playing hopscotch and whip and top, and also making slides on icy school playgrounds.”

Ethel also enjoyed music, cookery and needlework.

“Mum was a fantastic cook,” Christopher said. “Whether it was tripe and onions, cow heel and meat or bread and butter pudding, mum’s cooking was always tasty, plentiful and comforting.

“She had an amazing ability to miraculously stretch meals out to feed any extra mouths who would unexpectedly turn up.”

Twelve years ago, Ethel, who is also known to some as Christine, was diagnosed with cancer, and her treatment began.

“Despite feeling very low at times, she showed her spirit and her strength, and won that first battle,” Christopher said. “But four years ago, she was diagnosed again, and, although the treatments were severe, she didn’t give up. There were still too many family occasions for her to attend!

“Once again she found strength from somewhere and fought, sometimes with a smile on her face, sometimes not, and we thought she had won.”

But on Boxing Day last year, she was admitted to Chorley Hospital, and, despite a brief return home to Millfield Road, Ethel was eventually taken to St Catherine’s Hospice. She died earlier this month at the age of 84.

Christopher said: “Mum was truly the most wonderful, remarkable and inspirational person.

“We all love her so very deeply and we will miss her so much.”