Funeral with tributes, laughter and songs celebrates legacy of a Sheffield Woman of Steel

Ruby Gascoigne's coffin is carried into the chapel at City Road Crematorium. Picture: Chris Etchells
Ruby Gascoigne's coffin is carried into the chapel at City Road Crematorium. Picture: Chris Etchells
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The lasting legacy and achievements of Ruby Gascoigne - one of Sheffield's famous Women of Steel who died aged 95 - were saluted at a funeral that was far from a solemn occasion.

There were some tears but also plenty of laughter during today's service at City Road Crematorium. Her family wanted the afternoon to be the final chapter in her remarkable life story, and even the funeral director remarked that it was one of the most important memorials he had ever worked on.

Ruby Gascoigne

Ruby Gascoigne

Ruby was one of the leading figures in the city's efforts to win official recognition for the women who kept the Sheffield steelworks going to make munitions during two world wars.

The campaign came about in her later years, but she lived long enough to see the unveiling of sculptor Martin Jennings' permanent, commemorative statue in Barker's Pool, and to witness the artwork become a city icon.

The great-great grandmother had been fighting cancer, and died after a short illness earlier this month.

She was one of four women - alongside Kathleen Roberts, Kit Sollitt and Dorothy Slingsby - who fronted a public fundraising appeal that collected £170,000 to pay for the statue. Dorothy also died aged 95 last year.

Ruby Gascoigne with her husband, Frank, just before the outbreak of World War Two

Ruby Gascoigne with her husband, Frank, just before the outbreak of World War Two

The campaign came about because legions of hardworking women had received little public acknowledgement for their wartime contribution, as they were simply expected to hand their duties back to their male counterparts when the conflict ended.

The appeal took the quartet to Downing Street, where they met the then Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and they were invited by the Queen to attend a garden party at Buckingham Palace.

Ruby was born on Uttley Street, Darnall, and worked at W.T. Flathers munitions factory in Tinsley from 1939. She left to have her son Graham in 1942, and returned again to work there until the end of the war, helping to create portable harbours that were used in the Normandy landings.

She later worked as a cook in children's homes across Sheffield. Ruby married her husband, Frank, in 1941, and the couple had five sons, leading to a grand total of 15 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren and four great-great grandchildren. Frank died suddenly in 1984, and Ruby lost her second son Gregory in 1993.

Ruby Gascoigne's family at the Women of Steel statue following her funeral

Ruby Gascoigne's family at the Women of Steel statue following her funeral

The service included readings from Ruby's son Kevin, and granddaughter Carly. Songs were played, including I Just Called To Say I Love You by Stevie Wonder, and Love Changes Everything by Michael Crawford.

The wake was held at Farm Road Sports and Social Club, where an array of Women of Steel memorabilia was put on display. Donations were collected for the Weston Park Hospital Cancer Charity, and after the funeral Ruby's flowers were to be laid at the Barker's Pool statue, where some floral tributes had already been left.