Angie Townsend bids family farewell with Precious tribute

IT was a final farewell from a dying mother to her family, a parting gift for those closest to her.

By The Newsroom
Thursday, 11th February 2016, 9:04 am
Updated Thursday, 11th February 2016, 9:09 am
Angie Townsend work as a DJ on Radio Saltire. Picture: supplied
Angie Townsend work as a DJ on Radio Saltire. Picture: supplied

Angie Townsend, who has lost her courageous three-year fight with cancer, knew she was terminally ill when she penned and performed Precious.

The multi-talented 49-year-old radio presenter and professional storyteller from Wallyford was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012.

She sought help immediately after finding a lump but the cancer had already spread, meaning she could no longer be cured.

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Angie with Seeing Red in 1987. Picture: supplied

And the final song on her solo album, Butterfly, is a poignant last message for her husband Chris and teenage daughters Bethan and Ceri-Ann.

Angie sings: “You are precious in my life/I would stand by you, day and night/And when I look upon you I see heaven/And I know love will survive.”

Her funeral at St Michael’s Church in Inveresk tomorrow will be followed by a celebration of her life in Musselburgh, which will see her old band Seeing Red perform in accordance with her wishes.

Angie Townsend. Picture: Neil Hanna

Her family and friends have spoken about how she fought her condition with courage and dignity, often putting aside her own problems to offer help and encouragement to others.

Even to the very end, her thoughts were not for herself but for those gathered by her bedside in St Columba’s Hospice.

As she held the hands of family members, she urged them to “look after one another and stay strong”.

And Bethan, 16 and Ceri-Anne, 14, also got a chance to say goodbye in a particularly special way.

Seeing Red reunion. Picture: Al Donnelly

The pair, who have inherited their mother’s musical talents, agreed to perform leading roles in an amateur production of the hit musical West Side Story, knowing it was likely their mother would not live to see it.

But she was allowed to leave St Columba’s to watch them perform a special preview with the full cast – just five days before she died on January 29.

She watched spellbound from a wheelchair at Musselburgh’s Our Lady of Loretto Church hall as Bethan and Ceri-Ann played Maria and Anita respectively.

Chris, Angie’s husband of 19 years, said: “They were able to put on an hour-long show before she died, which was incredibly special.

Angie with Seeing Red in 1987. Picture: supplied

“She was over the moon to watch our daughters perform. But when she got back [to the hospice] she collapsed on her bed and said ‘I’m exhausted, but it was all worth it’.”

The sisters will perform the musical again from Tuesday until Saturday next week, vowing that the “show must go on” because that’s what their mother would have wanted.

Angie had reformed her old rock band Seeing Red with a view to gigging again, but put everything on hold after the shocking diagnosis.

The band performed on the James Whale show on ITV in 1991 to promote their debut single Little People and supported Fish a couple of times.

And while they never had a major tour, they have played at various venues around the Capital.

Seeing Red will be playing four songs at the funeral – Little People, Something for Nothing, Heartland and Keep The Fire Burning.

Angie Townsend. Picture: Neil Hanna

Band member Steve Brown who described Angie as “the strongest person I have ever known”, said: “We’re keeping things upbeat. She wanted a celebration and we’ll be telling folks to dance. She wouldn’t want anyone moping around, sitting politely listening.”

Angie was able to fulfil her dying wish to write and perform a stage version of the life of her hero Elsie Inglis at the city’s Scottish Storytelling Centre.

Just over a year ago, she played the lead role in Elsie Inglis: The Good Lady Who Would Not Go Home to rapturous applause.

Chris said: “I was blown away by her courage through all of this. She didn’t let it stop her doing anything.

“And she continued to put other people’s needs before her own. She was always a glass-half-full person who lived her life to the full and didn’t let anything get her down. She was in a lot of pain but she never complained.

“She was full of energy, enthusiasm and a love for life and a real giver of her time. Our [church] minister, who was there to offer her support during her illness, often felt more encouraged when he left than when he went in. She inspired people that have gone through similar things and gave people, including one friend who suffered from depression, the motivation to keep going.”

Meanwhile, other tributes have poured in from friends, supporters and colleagues.

Fellow storyteller Tim Porteous said a “light went out in this world” with her passing, adding: “She was the most remarkable and inspiring person I have ever had the privilege to know.

“Angie was a beautiful singer, a brilliant writer and a passionate historian, as well as an inspiring storyteller and local radio presenter. But what made it such a privilege to know her was her character: her capacity to love, her ability to laugh and share humour, her compassion and uplifting philosophy on life.”

Her colleagues from Radio Saltire said they were “saddened” to hear that she had succumbed to the cancer she had been battling with remarkable courage and dignity over the last few years. Angie joined the studio as a presenter in September 2013 and immediately made an impression on the team with her vibrant personality, sense of fun, and her compassion.

She remained at the studio until last April and was inaugurated into the Radio Saltire Hall of Fame by becoming their first honorary member.

‘The love we share here and above’

Speaking on Butterfly’s release, Angie described it as a collection of songs written to celebrate life and love. But she also said it was a legacy for her family, with one song in particular dedicated to them.

Precious is both an enduring symbol of her love and a testament to love’s ability to endure beyond death and in the face of cancer.

She sings: “You are precious in my life/I would stand by you, day and night/And when I look upon you I see heaven/And I know love will survive.

“Cos there’s nothing that keeps me hoping/When I look at you, I’m so proud/And from the depths of my heart you must never forget/No darkness can keep us apart./And although I may not be there when the tears fall/I will always be there in your heart/And the angels will smile when I tell them of you/And the love we share here and above . . ./Cos there’s nothing that keeps me from saying . . .”

Seeing Red reunion. Picture: Al Donnelly