The courage of Lassie

Amy Foster, nickname Heilan' Lassie, who raised money on streets of Lancashire to support the First World War aged eight

Amy Foster, nickname Heilan' Lassie, who raised money on streets of Lancashire to support the First World War aged eight

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Amy Foster was born in Lindsay Street, Blackburn, in 1906, the daughter of Mr and Mrs Edward Foster.

Her father (known as Teddy) was a sewing machine mechanic and a native of Wigan, whilst her mother, Maude, from Workington, was small in stature, reserved and polite.

Amy Foster, nickname Heilan' Lassie, who raised money on streets of Lancashire to support the First World War aged eight

Amy Foster, nickname Heilan' Lassie, who raised money on streets of Lancashire to support the First World War aged eight

Amy was the seventh of 12 children (five boys and seven girls) and attended St Peter’s Church of England School, despite the fact that her father was born into a Roman Catholic family and her mother was a Wesleyan.

Responding to the trauma that swept the country on the declaration of the First World War, Mrs Foster and her daughter, then eight years old, almost immediately began the task of providing comforts for the servicemen and by October a charming litle character, Hielan’ Lassie, so named on account of her Scottish ancestry, had appeared on the local scene, in traditional Highland uniform and soliciting contributions from the local townsfolk.

Every Saturday, whatever the weather, Mrs Foster and Amy - in her Hielan’ Lassie guise - were to be seen in the vicinity of Burnley town centre with collecting boxes and offering a sale of variety of novelties supplied by sympathetic tradesmen and well wishers, and they varied their activities by collecting at mill gates and at social affairs such as dances, concert parties, etc.

The proceeds were used to send parcels to soldiers on active service and Hielan’ Lassie received hundreds of letters of appreciation over the years from soldiers and sailors who had benefited, many of whom persuaded her to pose with them for souvenir photographs.

As the war dragged wearily on, Mrs Foster and Amy worked unceasingly for St Dunstan’s and even after the armistice, in 1918, contributions for this worthy cause were continued.

As a child, Amy had always nurtured a secret ambition to become a florist and in 1920, at the age of 14, her ambition was realised when she secured a job with Messrs Veevers in Burnley Market Hall.

Mrs Foster and Hielan’ Lassie continued to work – and support charities – for disabled ex-Serviceman and particularly St Dunstan’s Hospital for blind serviceman – contributions that were gratefully acknowledged by the hospital governors.

Amy – many people always referred to her as Hielan’ Lassie – spent 55 years of her life among her beloved flowers and ended up taking over the business in the market hall and renaming it Amy’s Floral Corner.