The rich life of a north-east grandmother-of-two who unexpectedly captured the imagination of the world skateboarding community has been remembered by her family after she passed away.
Elaine Shallcross, who lived in Ellon, raised more than £25,000 for cancer research through her ‘Shuvit Cancer’ campaign, in which she attempted to learn the complex skateboarding trick in time for what would have been her 69th birthday on July 10.
Taking on such an extraordinary challenge was typical of her character, her family said.
“Now that she’s gone we’re finding out more and more things she had a go at,” said her husband Martin, 70.
Born in Coventry, Elaine, who passed away last month, met Martin when both were students at Queen’s University Belfast.
He added: “She was fantastic. We’d been friends for a long time before we got married, we were friends at university, and then afterwards.”
The pair married in Elaine’s home village in Dorset in 1975, beginning a decades-long adventure that would take them both around the world.
From Ireland, they moved to Zambia together, where Elaine’s hockey talents landed her a place in the national team.
“She just played one match against Nigeria,” said Martin, “I think they got comprehensively beaten!”
From Zambia, they moved to Canada, and then to Indonesia, where Elaine started her own nursery school after finding out she could not work at the same oil firm as Martin.
Elaine and Martin finally settled down with daughters Kate and Jenny in Aberdeen in 1989, and Elaine got a job at the Aberdeen University library.
Martin said: “She loved it. She had no training in it, but she worked her way through the ranks and ended up in a very senior position in the library.”
She met her breast cancer diagnosis in July 2017 with fear initially, but that quickly turned to determination.
“She started her fundraising almost straight away,” said Martin.
To begin with, that meant making hundreds of beanies and doing the Kiltwalk, all to raise money for Professor Valerie Speirs’ research into breast cancer at Aberdeen University.
Then, in December last year, she hatched the plan for Shuvit Cancer with her daughter Jenny, 34, and son-in-law Steve, 38.
Jenny said: “It started off as – not like a bit of a joke, but Steve said, ‘Oh, you should do a skateboarding trick’, and she said, ‘Yeah, I’m up for that’, and she got really excited about it.
“We were going to do a kickflip for cancer, but Steve said that’s probably a bit technical, so what about a shuvit? It was still a challenge. We thought Shuvit Cancer has a really good meaning behind it.”
A number of skateboarding publications caught wind soon after the campaign’s launch and, Jenny said, “it just exploded.
“We knew it was going to be successful, but we didn’t know it was going to be like this. This is incredible. We’re up to £25,000.
“We just released mum’s t-shirts on Friday (June 26), they all got sold out by Sunday. That’s another £2,000 to add to the fundraiser.”
Martin said: “Elaine’s original challenge was to do the shuvit on her birthday, in two weeks.
“Of course, she never made it, but now (US skateboarding legend) Tony Hawk has backed our idea for it to be World Shuvit Cancer Day, and we’ll get something big organised for that.”
The family has vowed to continue to fundraise in her honour.
Jenny said: “She was a blessing to this world, that’s for sure.”
Martin added: “She touched a lot of people, tens of thousands of people. I’ve got a whole pile of cards here on the table, I’m finding it difficult to read. We haven’t opened them all yet.”
Professor George Boyne, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Aberdeen University, said: “It is a privilege to acknowledge Elaine’s contribution to the University of Aberdeen and the wider community.
“Her incredible #shuvitcancer campaign has reached far and wide and touched the hearts of people around the world. The University will be honoured to play its part in marking the 10th of July – on what would have been Elaine’s 69th birthday – as World Shuvit Cancer Day.
“Elaine was a valued colleague in the University Library and friend to many. She came to know many more colleagues through her tireless dedication for fundraising for breast cancer research at the University. We are very grateful for her relentless efforts and the inspiration she provided to so many people.
“Our thoughts remain with Elaine’s family and friends.”
Professor Valerie Speirs, the chairwoman in Molecular Oncology at the University of Aberdeen whose work benefitted from Elaine’s tireless fundraising, said: “Elaine was such an inspirational lady and her innovative approach to fundraising for cancer research at the University – especially her skateboarding challenge – brought much joy as well as vital donations.
“She always said she wanted to contribute to research that could benefit her daughters and granddaughter in years to come and she has certainly done that.
“It was always a pleasure to host her visits to my lab. She will be greatly missed and her legacy will live on in the work that we do.”