Margaret Watson: Trish Makepeace was the face and voice of Dewsbury

She was a trailblazer for women, successfully managing to combine a working career with bringing up a family, and throughout it all, remaining the most practical, down to earth woman I have ever known.

By Jane Chippindale
Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 8:22 am
Updated Wednesday, 6th April 2022, 8:35 pm
Trish Makepeace pictured after she was elected the first woman president of Dewsbury Rotary Club
Trish Makepeace pictured after she was elected the first woman president of Dewsbury Rotary Club

Margaret Watson writes: Thousands of women have “stood” Dewsbury Market over the years and helped make it successful, but none more so than Trish Makepeace, who 20 years ago was elected chairman of Dewsbury Market Traders’ Association – the first woman ever to hold this position.

Since her recent death, tributes have been flooding in from all over the district extolling all that this remarkable woman had done for the town of Dewsbury and local charities.

She was one of my dearest friends and where she got her energy from to take on so many roles promoting Dewsbury, bringing up five children and running a successful business, I will never know.

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To my mind Trish was the face and voice of Dewsbury and I knew that she would have done anything and gone anywhere to promote this town through the good times and bad.

She was a trailblazer for women, successfully managing to combine a working career with bringing up a family, and throughout it all, remaining the most practical, down to earth woman I have ever known.

Trish took on many roles which women had not held before and did them well, including becoming the first woman president of Dewsbury Rotary Club.

She was also a former president of Dewsbury Chamber of Trade, which she held alongside that of being chairman of Dewsbury Market Traders.

This week I would like to dedicate my column to her because she was such an inspiration to me and to so many other working mothers.

She held many important positions and wore many elaborate chains of office, but her top priority was always her family, her husband Bob, and her five children, Rosalind, Roy, Robert, Chantelle and Philip.

She died peacefully after a long illness on Mother’s Day with all her children and their gifts, flowers and cards around her, and she and Bob were due to celebrate their golden wedding a few days later.

Trish was only 72, which today is regarded as young, but she lived a fuller life than most of us ever will, and achieved far more.

Over the years, she talked to me about her life, growing up in a big family surrounded by loving brothers and sisters.

I remember her telling me three days after giving birth to twins in Moorlands maternity home, 38 years ago, her husband Bob was made redundant.

They had three other children at the time and had just taken out a mortgage on a large house in Dewsbury, so the loss of Bob’s job at Birstall Carpet Company could not have come at a worse time.

“I’ll never forget Bob walking into the maternity ward and sitting beside my bed and breaking the news,” recalled Trish.

“It was a terrible time but we were determined not to let it drag us down, and four weeks later Bob was standing on Dewsbury Market selling plants, many of which he’d dug up from our garden.”

Bob, who had a degree in textiles from Leeds University, knew he had to do something quickly because he had little hope of getting a job again in the declining textile industry.

Soon Trish was at his side helping him sell plants and flowers on Dewsbury Market, even though neither of them had any experience of markets.

Later they opened a most successful business selling hot jacket potatoes from their attractive Victorian Fayre stall on Dewsbury Market.

Trish was always proud that the two of them had worked together, night and day, to make a success of something which was far removed from the world of textiles.

Both had worked in mills and textiles and that was all they knew but because Bob loved gardening and knew a lot about plants, that was what they first decided to sell.

They were determined to make a go of it and learned quickly, getting lots of support from other market traders and from family and friends.

In her younger days, she had worked in textile mills, warping and spinning and as a tyer-on.

Trish’s last job was at Wormald and Walker’s in Dewsbury in the 1970s where her dad was head maintenance man.

The couple decided on a Victorian theme for their new business because of a popular television series called Upstairs, Downstairs which influenced them greatly.

A popular character on the show was Mrs Bridges, the cook, and that inspired them to wear Victorian outfits like the one Mrs Bridges wore.

“It was something different and it added a bit of colour and atmosphere to the market,” she recalled. “But later we started wearing our ordinary clothes.”

Trish found that working on the market suited her new role as a working mum because she was always able to fit the hours in with looking after her children who all went to local schools.

But it was hard work because when they had the flower stall, she had to be up at four in the morning to get to the wholesale market in Leeds.

When the couple first became market traders, Trish very quickly took an interest in the affairs of the market and how it was run.

She joined the Market Traders’ Association, of which she was secretary for many years, and later its chairman.

Her proudest moment some years later was when Dewsbury Market won the much coveted title of “Market of the Year”.

Trish always saw an important part of her job as promoting the market, especially when there was so much competition coming from new supermarkets which were opening up in the town.

She was always grateful to the loyal customers in Dewsbury who stuck by the market through the good times and bad.

Soon we will be seeing a new market being built in Dewsbury, and how sad Trish never lived to see it.

Let us hope she will be remembered at its official opening – and perhaps a plaque placed there in her memory.

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Tributes to 'Mrs Dewsbury', Trish Makepeace, who has died aged 72