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Tributes as battler Mary loses her ultimate fight
5:28pm Wednesday 6th June 2012 in Charity
SHE was a backing singer for Shirley Bassey, once gave hospital treatment to Prince Charles and helped dozens of deaf children by setting up her own charity.
Family and friends gathered today for the funeral of Southampton fundraiser Mary Nicklen, 70, after she lost a long battle with cancer.
The grandmother-of-four was best known for founding Children Say, a charity that supported youngsters with hearing difficulties across Hampshire and Dorset.
But during her varied life she also had a career as a semi-professional singer and a nurse – and at one time unwittingly treated Prince Charles while working at Great Ormond Street hospital in London.
Her husband of 32 years, Bob Nicklen, from Sholing Road, explained: “She had not been told who Charles was when she was given responsibility for his care, as an obscure surname was used.
“But she was suspicious of the burly man in a suit that was always nearby.
“She was also not at all impressed that Charles’s parents didn’t visit – later learning they were on their tour of Canada.”
Bob says that Mary was also an excellent singer – and regularly performed a whole repertoire of songs from her native Ireland.
He added: “Mary had a very, very fine voice. When younger she was semi-professional and at one time backed for Shirley Bassey.”
Having moved to Southampton from Chandler’s Ford, Mary set about founding the Children Say charity in 1992 and ran it until her retirement in 2003.
From golf tournaments to firework displays, Mary organised a constant stream of charity events.
Bob said: “I wouldn’t like to estimate how much she raised over the years.
“At just one auction she raised £30,000 – it was hundreds of thousands of pounds, definitely.
“She was certainly a force to be reckoned with when she wanted to achieve something. And I think a lot of people would tell you that she wouldn’t accept ‘no’ for an answer.
“When she was running the charity, I was working full-time but still supported her with her events and it was like being constantly on the crest of a wave.
“It was only when she finally retired that we looked back and saw how much she actually did – it was a huge amount.”
Mary leaves behind her two daughters, Jackie and Rachel, and four grandchildren Arran, Kelly, Amy and Beth.
Her funeral took place at the Pear Tree Church in Pear Tree Road, Southampton, this morning.