Cordon bleu cook who lived her dreams dies at the age of 91

Helen Thornber
Helen Thornber

A cordon bleu cook, who overcame tragedy and illness to fulfill her dreams, has died at the age of 91.

Helen Elizabeth Thornber was struck down with polio at the age of two and lost her mother to cancer at the age of 14.

But she always said it made her even more determined to live her dreams and one of those was to complete the Morecambe Bay Walk with the Queen’s Guide Cedric Robinson.

A former pupil of Clitheroe Royal Grammar School, Helen studied at the Elizabeth Gaskell School of Domestic Science at the age of 17 and after that she worked at an amunitions factory in Birmingham before returning home to care for her father, William.

Her first application to study at the Cordon Bleu Cookery School in London was turned down as it was full but, undeterred, Helen, who was known affectionately as Het, wrote back and said as she was only a small person she would not take up much room. Her cheekiness paid off and she was offered a place.

In 1953 she went into partnership at the Whim in Cambridge, a coffee house and restaurant where Helen served many famous students including author E M Forster and Watson and Crick who discovered DNA.

World travelled, Helen spent 20 years working at Clitheroe’s Oxfam shop. She had many friends and relatives who she doted on including a sister, nephews and godchildren.