Island deputy lieutenant Jane Ball dies at 83

Jane Ball, Isle of Wight deputy lieutenant, who has died aged 83.
Jane Ball, Isle of Wight deputy lieutenant, who has died aged 83.

A deputy lieutenant of the Isle of Wight, who served the Isle of Wight community in many ways, has died at the age of 83.

Jane Ball (nee Baird) was born in Lanarkshire, Scotland, on July 16,1938, to to Col David and Freda Baird, and died on the Calbourne family farm she so loved.

Having spent the war years on the family estate in Caithness, the family were reunited after her father completed his final mission of restoring coal production in occupied Germany.

Her childhood was spent mostly in Durham where her father ran a coalmine.

Educated in Northumberland, she developed a passion for the outdoors and travel.

Following school and despite being one of the last debutantes presented to the queen, she decided she needed to see far more of the world before any thoughts of settling down.

She joined airline BAOC and worked on the front desks initially at Heathrow and then out in the Far East

It was while she was in Hong Kong she met Michael Ball, a shipping broker with Ben Line shipping. However, their romance did not blossom until after their return, she to London and him to the IW to take over the family building firm, James Ball and Son.

They were married in Chelsea in 1966 and moved into their first home, Merlin’s Cottage in Calbourne. Michael sold the firm and took over the tenancy of Ashengrove Farm, Calbourne,in 1969 with Jane and two children under three.

Despite neither having any agricultural background they slowly built up the dairy farm from 25 to over 100 cows.

Working as a team to expand and then finally purchase the farm in 1986. Jane supported Michael as he became chairman of the Isle of Wight NFU, chairman of the magistrates' bench, Vice Lord Lieutenant, and High Sheriff.

None of this would have been possible without Jane’s sterling organisational and hosting skills.

She herself was on the IW NSPCC Committee, the Calbourne Ladies' Choir and the WI.

She was soon asked to be a Deputy Lord Lieutenant for the county in her own right.

After the untimely death of Michael in 1998, she ran the farm on her own, taking it in a new direction and continuing her passion for nature by rewilding much of the land.

She was also known for her fierce strength never more so when faced with her long battles with cancer.

Jane was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1984 and while she won this battle she then had to face its return in 1996 and 1998.

Having now defeated cancer three times, she was more sanguine when it came to diagnosis of leukaemia in 2012.

Told she had six months to live, she responded by saying she was far too busy having to play with three small grandchildren and was already planning her 80th birthday in four years’ time.

Never complaining and never slowing down, her party with her family and friends was a triumphant rebuff to that beastly disease.

She was also blessed in that Tom Fenwick, an old family friend and widower, became her partner and fellow explorer.

They took canal barge through the French rivers every year and even though now increasingly frail managed a final trip together in May.

She leaves Tom, her two children Nicola and Charles and six grandchildren (Ella, Laura, Edward, George, Ranulph and Sasha).

A service was held at All Saints' Church, Calbourne, at 2pm on Friday.