Tributes to tragic former chart star

TRIBUTES were today paid to a Blackpool singer whose career was cut short by a rare and crippling disease.

Sheila Rossall, who was lead vocalist with 1970s group New Pickettywitch, has died in a nursing home.

The 57-year-old, who grew up in Grange Park, had been ill for more than two decades.

In 1980, she was diagnosed with Total Allergy Syndrome – meaning she was allergic to "virtually everything in the 20th century".

It was said the condition made her allergic to modern items like paint, plastic, carpets and even toothpaste.

But, after costly treatment in America, Miss Rossall claimed she had been wrongly diagnosed with the condition.

The former chart star died last week at Crystal Hall Nursing Home in Preston.

Her brother Sean today said she would be very sadly missed.

He said: "She was our little sister. She loved music and singing, it was a big part of her life. She was a little girl with a massive voice. She was feisty, but very caring.

"Sheila was a great vocalist and entertainer and she built up a good reputation.

"She had not been well for a very long time. It was hard for her as she had not been well enough to perform.

"She always loved Blackpool and spending time with her family at home."

Miss Rossall, who used to appear at Mecca in Blackpool, had to leave New Pickettywitch after collapsing in a recording studio.

A Save Sheila fund was set up to help fund residential treatment in America.

At one point Miss Rossall was confined to a wheelchair and weighed just four stones. She was unable to eat solid foods and existed on a twice-daily chemical drink.

In February 1981, she flew out to Dallas, Texas, to see specialists and receive pioneering treatment, including months in a contamination-free isolation unit.

She returned to England in October 1982 and, in 1990, she appeared on an ITV television programme, claiming she had been wrongly diagnosed.

Her life in a sterile cocoon made headline news the world over.

From a musical family, she joined the Tower Children's Ballet aged 11. She graduated to the position of first principal.

Among Miss Rossall's favourite performers were Shirley Bassey and Barbra Streisand.

Her father Bob played for 20 years for the Blackpool Tower Co in the Empress Ballroom and Tower Circus orchestras during the summer season.

Miss Rossall's funeral takes place on Thursday at Christ the King Church, Grange Park, at 11am. Burial will follow at Carleton Cemetery. Miss Rossall will be received into the church this evening at 7pm.

Her brother added: "Anyone who knew Sheila or remembers her is welcome to attend. She was very popular and a lot of people came to visit her while she was unwell."