Obituary: ‘Brocket babe’ Gill dies after life of good causes
PUBLISHED: 11:19 18 February 2019 | UPDATED: 11:19 18 February 2019
supplied by Sheila O'Reilly
Friends, family and colleagues have paid tribute to “inspirational” staunch campaigner and founder of Welwyn Garden City’s Oxfam branch, who has died at the age of 76 from a rare form of cancer.
Gillian Mary Pinfold - known to all as Gill - was born a “Brocket babe” on November 3, 1943, in the maternity units set up at Brocket Hall for evacuated and local mothers during the Second World War.
Growing up in Welwyn Garden City, she attended the Parkway Preschool, Applecroft School and St Albans High School for Girls, and trained as a teacher herself, working at Burnside JMI Common.
Gill was concerned for the plight of others as long as her family can remember.
“She has always been for the underdog and for people less fortunate than herself,” remembered her sister Liz Cohen, 72.
“I think we were brought up in in that sort of household, and she was a self starter - she did this on her own.
“She got a bee in her bonnet, and got involved at a very top level.”
Gill’s activism and charity work started in earnest after her children, David and Ellie, were settled as adults.
She was an active Oxfam campaigner, leading a well-motivated local team, according to longtime friends Sheila O’Reilly and Will Davis.
She ran campaign events from petitions to parliament, to street demonstrations and charity garden sales, stalls, speaking events and even getting on the catwalk in an Oxfam fashion show.
In 1978 she and fellow Oxfam volunteers took the leap of setting up Welwyn Garden City’s shop for the charity, which still operates on Fretherne Road.
Oxfam campaign leader Kelly Mundy paid tribute to her work, saying: “Gill was a loyal and dedicated Oxfam supporter, campaigning tirelessly to tackle the root causes of poverty.
“She was pivotal in setting up the local Oxfam group from the Welwyn Garden City Oxfam shop and took action against hunger, campaigned for aid and pushed for action to tackle climate change.
“We are extremely grateful for all that Gill has done to support Oxfam and for her passion to speak up for the world’s most vulnerable people.
“She will be fondly remembered by us.”
Later, she set up and chaired the local Fairtrade group and after several years of effort ensured Welwyn Hatfield was awarded Fairtrade Borough status.
“None of the Fairtrade group’s achievements would have been possible without Gill,” said Sheila and Will in a statement.
“Most of all, she was a generous spirited and kind-hearted person, always brimming with an infectious enthusiasm which was quickly picked up by those she campaigned with.”
Liz describes Gill as both very self-effacing and very easy to get on with.
“She would be amazed that people are remembering her, because she was a very unassuming woman,” she said.
“But she was a very jolly person and highly sociable.”
She had an adventurous spirit and loved travel with her husband, Geoffrey, who died several years ago.
“She was up for anything,” said Liz.
“It’s more a case of, where didn’t they go!”
Even in her last days, Gill was concerned about the cares of the world, says Liz. “She used to look at the headlines right until the end.
“She was thinking about people in a terrible plight in different parts of the world and that bothered her a lot.”
However, Liz says this family-loving woman lived her life to the full even in her last days.
“Even though she knew she was so ill she was just enjoying every moment that she had with her friends and family,” said Liz.
Gill leaves behind a sister, Liz, her children David and Ellie, and four grandchildren.
Her funeral will take place on March 2 at 11am at St Francis Church in Welwyn Garden City.
Friends and family are welcome, family flowers only and donations would be very much appreciated for Macmillan and Cancer Research UK.