Tributes to Children in Need super-fundraiser Louise Walsh from Milford
DOZENS of spotty cars are expected to descend on Milford on Monday for the funeral of BBC Children in Need super-fundraiser and driving trainer Louise Walsh (50).
Remembered as the driving force behind the nationwide Big Learner Relay, Louise’s idea has raised over £500,000 for the BBC charity in the past decade.
Back in 2013, the mum-of-three, who ran the Love Driving school with her husband Blaine, came up with a plan to relay a driving instructor’s top box around the UK, passing it from lesson to lesson to cover a distance of around 3,000 miles.
In the first year, she hoped to raise £5,000 but instead managed £65,000, leading to an appearance on the live broadcast of BBC Children in Need.
This year was set to be the 10th and final Big Learner Relay, however, Louise tragically died of a brain haemorrhage on 24th August, at the age of 50.
A former midwife and swimming instructor, Louise was known by friends and family as an incredible organiser and events planner.
Her sister Amy said: ”Louise was a wonderful friend to all who met her regardless of whether they were lifelong friends or acquaintances who passed through her life for just a short time.
“There are no words to truly express how utterly phenomenal she was, and no words that can sum up how much we will miss her.”
Born in Wimbledon in 1973, to parents Graham and Susan Bruton, Louise had two younger sisters, Amy and Jane, with whom she remained close.
As a youngster she was a fine swimmer, taking part in competitions from the age of five.
Louise and her family moved to Milford in 1982, where she attended the village primary school, before going on to Wentworth Milton Mount School in Bournemouth. Along with Amy, she started sailing at Keyhaven before joining the cadet fleet of the Royal Lymington Yacht Club.
An excellent artist, Louise later undertook a foundation course at Bournemouth Arts College, while also working as a lifeguard and swimming teacher at Lymington and Totton recreation centres. She married her first husband Mark on her 21st birthday.
Louise then decided to train as a midwife in Winchester, graduating on the same day that her daughter Ella was born in 1995. Tragically, her son Barnaby was stillborn in 1999.
Louise later worked for Wessex Independent Midwives, before becoming an NHS Sure Start midwife working across Bournemouth. In 2001, her son Finbar was born, followed by Malachy in 2007.
In 2010, she left midwifery to pursue her next dream of becoming a driving instructor, leading her to meet future husband Blaine, who had created a series of training videos for driving instructors.
Having joked that she had finally completed her training and didn’t have to listen to “that man going on any more” – she met Blaine in person at a networking event and the pair quickly became a couple.
Louise later undertook a post-graduate diploma in coaching, before composing and writing a course for trainee driving instructors.
She taught workshops and courses across the country and became well-known within the driver training industry. She also learnt sign language enabling her to teach deaf pupils and even taught some of the babies she had delivered as a midwife.
Her mum Susan said: “Louise had a number of jobs, but the common factor was people – she just had a way of being able to talk to people and guide them.
“She had a real ability to make you feel that everything was going to be okay – whether it was delivering a breach baby or straight-lining over a roundabout!”
After her death, Louise’s organs were donated to benefit five others. She is survived by her three children, husband Blaine, mum Susan and step-father Hugh Whitlock, and sisters Amy and Jane.
A funeral service and celebration of Louise’s life will be held at All Saints Church, Milford, on Monday 18th September at 11:30am. The family has asked that attendees dress in colourful clothes. Donations in Louise’s memory can be given to Olivia Inspires c/o Richard Steel and Partners Funeral Directors, Winchester.