Obituary: Anne Shearer, councillor and psychotherapist

Born: 14 March, 1929, in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Died: 23 June, 2015, in Tunbridge Wells, aged 86

Anne Shearer: Therapist whose work in Glasgow helped people to reduce stress through correct breathing techniques
Anne Shearer: Therapist whose work in Glasgow helped people to reduce stress through correct breathing techniques

Anne Shearer of Beechgrove, Broughton, was committed to the wellbeing of individuals and the community as a councillor in Upper Tweeddale, and as a stress therapist, most notably in Glasgow.

She pursued these twin goals with great energy, organisation, persuasive skills, humour and understanding, touching the lives of many through her pioneering work in teaching relaxation and simple but transformative correct breathing, which is carried on though the work of the Great Big Trust.

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Ann and her older brother Fred were born in Tunbridge Wells. When she was six, the family moved to Salisbury, where her younger brother John was born. The ancient city, in a landscape studded with Neolithic barrows, Iron Age hill forts and the stone circles of Stonehenge, stimulated the imagination of an exceptionally bright and active child and she developed a love of history and nature from an early age.

Anne passed the entrance examination to South Wilts Grammar School for Girls. She did well academically and also excelled at sports, representing both school and county at swimming and lacrosse, and developing a love of literature, particularly poetry, which remained with her throughout her life.

While her brothers went on to university, family circumstances at the time, and her father’s belief that women did not need higher education, meant that Anne left school at age of 16.

This injustice made her determined to make the most of her abilities and she devoted much of her busy life to study in various fields.

Anne’s adolescent years coincided with the Second World War, and from 1943, the area was peacefully invaded by thousands of American troops, who brought with them the exciting, energising rhythms of jazz, bepop, jive and jitterbug. Anne vigorously practised the new dance routines in her bedroom, much to her mother’s concern for the state of the ceilings.

However, a stray German bomb dropped on a neighbouring street brought the ceilings down more effectively than Anne could have managed.

After leaving school, Anne became a secretary to a gentleman farmer at Wishford, west of Salisbury, cycling the eight miles to work in all weathers.

She enjoyed escaping from the farm office to look after the poultry and organising the seasonal gangs of casual workers who planted and harvested the potato crop.

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In her spare time, she became secretary to the local Young Farmers’ Club and a regular customer of Salisbury Public Library.

In her early 20s, Anne became secretary/housekeeper to a farmer, on the border of Herefordshire and Radnorshire, a move from the landscapes of Thomas Hardy and Richard Jefferies to those of AE Housman.

It was a new and challenging environment, organising the life of an ancient farmstead, without electricity, mains water or indoor sanitation.

While on a visit to her parents, she met Tom Shearer, a young Scots horticulturalist friend of her brother Fred, who had become research scientist at the Bush plant breeding station, near Penicuik.

Tom and Anne were later married in Liberton Kirk, beginning life together in Eddleston before moving to Broughton in 1960, and raising three children, Colin, Julie and Wendi.

Anne became actively involved with the Broughton playgroup, Village Hall committee and establishing the youth club. She was elected an independent councillor in 1969, and, with regionalisation, was elected onto the newly formed Borders Council, becoming chair of the social work committee in 1974.

After a decade, she felt called to help people in Glasgow coping with stress writing her first book entitled Love, Drugs or any City Like Glasgow”. She became interested in dowsing, and started the West of Scotland Dowsers, then becoming secretary of the Scottish Dowsers Association, organising their annual meetings.

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By now a psychotherapist of some standing, Anne realised that untreated stress and tension caused a large section of the population to under-breath and so she pioneered the teaching of Correct Natural Breathing to counter this trend.

In 1986 she set up the charity the Phoenix (Scotland) Trust and the Phoenix Centre, in the former City Public School, Townhead, Glasgow in order to further her work in the relief of stress and research into breathing.

It became a thriving social and community centre, depending on the goodwill, grants and an extraordinary outpouring of energy from all concerned.

No-one was ever turned away from the centre’s doors and many who could not make a financial donation for their therapy session helped with one of the practical task which made up the day-to-day running of the project.

She went on to create the College of Childhood and People’s University of Health, realising that children often carry society’s stress.

In 2004, the GREAT Big Trust (Global Respiratory Educational Advancement Trust) was set up to further what Anne had started and continues to this day

While in Glasgow, Anne became interested in St Kentigern (St Mungo). In 1990 the Lord Provost unveiled a stone symbolising the spiritual connection between the 6th-century Glasgow Saint and the work of the Phoenix Centre. In 2013 the stone was relocated to the former gardens at the Crook Inn, to mark the area’s association with Merlin, whom Kentigern had baptised.

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Anne continued her therapy work on her return to Eddleston, writing her second book The Earth Can Heal Itself, Can You? and finally returned to Beechgrove, the family home, with many plans for the future.

Anne had a big,warm heart and seemed set to go on forever. Within the last days before her sudden illness, she mentioned that she was so pleased to be getting on with things; there was so much more to do.

She is remembered with deep affection by those whose life she touched, and her inspirational example and energy directs and motivates the work of the trust.