It is with great regret that the Isle of Wight Branch Branch Committee announce the very sad passing of our esteemed member, Helen Wilkinson. We understand that Helen died in St Mary’s hospital on 31st October from complications only discovered while being assessed for an operation on her knee. Helen’s passing will be especially difficult for Members, who only heard of her husband, Colin’s, death on 25th May last year. Both were long standing members of the World Ship Society and both gave outstanding service to our Branch; Colin through being our highly competent Treasurer for several years and Helen for her amazing ability as our Social Secretary. Unfortunately, the post of Treasurer tends to be a thankless task which is, all too often, taken for granted by the rest of us and we hardly hear of the ceaseless work involved until something goes wrong. That never happened under Colin, so we must not underestimate his abilities and, albeit posthumously, recognise his abilities and thank him for his hard work.
Similarly, it is easy for us just to make an assumption that social events “just happen.” That is far from the truth, and Helen searched out venues, negotiated over prices and organised us for our Christmas buffets without ever a word of complaint. It is gratifying that her social gatherings were so popular that we have members who made special efforts to come to them, even if they could not attend our regular monthly meetings. For that, Helen, we all thank you. Colin and Helen did not have any children and were the least bashful couple one could ever hope to meet. But because of that we find we actually know very little about them as a family. We understand that they moved to East Cowes from Essex where Helen had been Colin’s boss. We also understand that Helen used to drive internationally for Avis Car Rentals, which embarrassed your current acting charman who once asked Helen whether she drove! The pitying look he received in return still remains a mark of her outstanding humour!
Both Colin and Helen were pillars of society in so many ways: apart from their membership and work for the WSS they were friends of Osborne House. Helen , especially had a raft of stories of how she enhanced visitors experiences – as well as how she made sure no one ever got in without paying! However, they will probably be best remembered by the Isle of Wight community as a whole for their organisational and fund-raising work for the RNLI. When the Committee suggested an appropriate memorial ought to be created in memory of Colin, it was Helen who suggested we make a donation to the Lifeboats, in return for Colin’s name being immortalised on one of their boats. We were, of course, pleased to do this, but never dreamt that within a few of months we would be destined to have to extend that to Helen’s name as well. The RNLI have understood our desire to have both names together, on one boat, and therefore offered us an opportunity to commemorate them both – together as we and they would want – on the new boat being built for Whitby.
We thank you, Colin and Helen, for your membership, hard work and, in particular, your friendship.
May you long rest in peace.
Nick Hawkins Acting Chairman November 2022.