Sheffield Woman of Steel Violet - who drove a crane as a wartime teenager - dies aged 97

One of Sheffield's Women of Steel, Violet Tandy, has died aged 97 after a short illness.

Friday, 12th March 2021, 8:36 am

At 17 years old, Violet went to work at Brown Bayley steelworks, initially as an inspector, and then became an overhead gantry crane driver, said her son, John.

He said: “It must have been quite daunting but most of those women took it as part of their young lives and that was that.”

John said that one of his mum’s favourite stories was that the foreman tried to keep the women in line and warned them not to go near the furnace as it was dangerous – so naturally they sneaked across when they got the chance.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Violet Tandy proudly showing off her Women of Steel medal

“Mum said the other little bonus was that when they went near the furnace, the men used to wolf whistle at them,” said John.

John said his mum was delighted when Sheffield decided to celebrate the Women of Steel after a campaign by The Star led to action by the city council.

She had a lovely day watching the unveiling of the Women of Steel statue outside the City Hall and was also thrilled to be invited to the town hall to meet the Lord Mayor to be presented with a certificate.

Violet, whose maiden name was Haynes, grew up on Mansfield Road, Intake and worked in a wallpaper shop before she joined the steelworks.

Violet Tandy at the unveiling of the Women of Steel statue

Her older brother, Alfred, served during the war in West Africa and Italy.

She and husband Jack, a painter and decorator by trade, were married on June 5, 1943 at Gleadless Church. They were married almost 60 years and Jack died in November 2002.

John, their only child, was born in 1950 and Violet became a full-time mum until he was about 11 and then returned to work at Cole Brothers, as John Lewis was then called, working in various departments, before retiring in 1984.

Violet Tandy, right, at a Remembrance Sunday service in Lincolnshire last year with nursing home staff and another resident

Jack suffered ill health towards the end of his life and the couple moved from their home in Birley to a retirement park in Torksey, Lincolnshire in 2001. Following Jack’s death, Violet lived independently there for 18 years before having to move to a nursing home around a year ago.

The staff at the home made a memory scrapbook with Violet, who told everyone about her time in the steelworks. She also visited the local cenotaph in East Stockwith last Remembrance Sunday with another resident of the home to lay wreaths and enjoyed chatting to others there about her war service, said John.

Violet always took great pride in her appearance even to the end, bemoaning the fact her hairdresser could not make the weekly visit to the nursing home due to Covid restrictions. She was kind, cheerful, chatty and had a great sense of humour.

John said: “We’ve had some lovely tributes.

"We’ve spoken to people she worked with. Several of them held her in high regard. She was fun to work with and very helpful and a lovely person.”

Funeral arrangements are still being finalised.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a digital subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor