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Heather Lea (nee Cheetham) speaks about her experience of losing her parents and younger sister in the Summerland Fire.

Heather had enjoyed many visits to the Isle of Man on family holidays ever since her childhood, and even visited Summerland itself in 1971 when on the Island on a day trip with a Liverpool youth group.

However, in August 1973, she was 19 and newly-married and so she remained behind in Liverpool with her unwell grandmother, so only her parents and younger sister went to the Isle of Man. Late in the evening on the 2nd of August they saw the news of the fire on the television and immediately went to a neighbour to phone the emergency number. However, after twelve hours of engaged lines, Heather thought to call their usual boarding house in Douglas, but as soon as Mrs Christian answered desperately hoping it was her sister, Heather knew that they had been in the fire.

Heather describes the pain of those days of not knowing, and then the terrible weeks and months that followed. Although she was able to speak to her husband, she was never able to speak to anyone else about what happened, and she certainly was not able to contemplate visiting the Island again. However, in 2013, on the 40th anniversary of the Fire, she visited the Island with her husband and children, gaining a sense of closure that has allowed her to speak of it again.

In this conversation she speaks about her experiences and her feelings now about the Fire and its remembrance today.

This interview was conducted as a part of the Summerland Remembered project commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Summerland Fire on 2nd August 1973.


When you click play on one of the interviews below there will be a slight delay as the audio file is downloaded. Large files or slow internet connections will increase the length of this delay.

  • Heather Lea interviewed by James Franklin (27 February 2023)

More Photos

  • Heather Lea in the early 1970s