Born 27th June 1928, Edna lived most of her live in Middlestown, where she raised her family and dedicated all her spare time to raising funds for local charities. Edna used conventional, and unconventional means to raise money for the things she believed in. A diabetic herself, she organised sponsored darts marathons, penny for the guy collections, gala charity nights and bric -a -brack auctions that featured Bet Lynch’s (from Coronation Street) ear rings. She also galvanised TV personality, Emmerdale Farms actor Christopher Chittell who plays Eric Pollard to be the auctioneer. She unashamedly asked those ‘with’ money, status and fame to support those ‘without’ giving her a reputation of being some one who moved from one successfully completed fundraising campaign to the next, without pause.
Edna wrote directly to Diana, Princess of Wales for support and received a personal cheque which went towards the building of Yorkshires first dedicated Diabetic centre.
Carol Coates, Edna’s daughter recalls with pride how creative her mum was when trying to raise funds. ‘She didn’t care who she asked, or how. Her priority was to get support for those who were unable to access it and as a diabetic, treatment was not available in Wakefield, so she decided to do something about it. She raised millions so that the people of Wakefield didn’t have to go to Leeds for their treatment.’
Edna’s grand-daughter Daisy, at the age of only 15, nominated Edna for the British Heath Care Awards because she felt her grand-mother deserved recognition for all she did. ‘It takes not one person, but lots to raise that kind of money and my grandmother has always been a front-runner at getting everyone involved. If it wasn’t for people like her, I’m sure many sick people would be a lot worse off’. Daisy also entered her grandma into a Sunday Mirror competition which when she won meant both Edna and Daisy went on a Concord flight in recognition for being a ‘Super Gran.’ This was part of British Airway’s celebrations to honour the Queen Mum’s 85th birthday in 1985.
Edna Coates involvement in the taking care of the sick of Wakefield extended beyond the Cancer and Diabetes Centre. She raised money for the Pinderfield’s paraplegic ward, enabled the first patients laundrette to be built and maintained and with her fund raising bought the first mobile phones for patients to use. She also raised over £43,000 in 1983 for the first eye laser treatment machine in Yorkshire, which, alongside other cutting edge technologies and treatments within Diabetic centre made Wakefield the most advanced in Yorkshire.
With the re-development and re-building of Pinderfield’s hospital, Edna’s legacy has been forgotten which is why Dream Time Creative’s Forgotten Women of Wakefield project is honouring her with a Blue Plaque. Working with Wakefield Civic Society, Edna and her achievements will be forever remembered as she takes her place, honoured with a Blue Plaque, alongside other incredible women from our city’s past.
Edna is Number 10 in our quest for #BluePlaqueParity!
We unveiled Edna’s Blue Plaque as part of a dedicated Forgotten Women of Wakefield event with Wakefield Civic Society October 2019 at Wakefield Town Hall.