NEWPORT businesswoman, Janet Harris, talks about her varied career, fundraising and life after a stroke to HAYLEY MILLS.

I WAS a war baby, born in 1941, and to save you all doing the maths that makes me now 74, going on 12.

Born in the Rothbury Nursing Home, I was the first baby ever born there because it was not a maternity home. My mother, Ellen (Nelly) Harris, had been admitted for a minor op and I came early. I have been told that I spent the first week of my life sleeping in a laundry basket on the operating table, quite an auspicious start.

My father, William (Billy) Harris, was the long standing licensee of the Isca Hotel, Clarence Place, which at the time came under the ownership of Phillips Brewers. Eventually it was sold to Courage.

My father had been Mr Phillips’ private secretary and the police and courts shorthand taker. He was one of the first to qualify and I have in my possession a signed, framed certificate signed by Mr Pitman, dated May 23 1900.

So my father was Mr Phillips’ secretary, but there was an accident with a runaway dray when two shire horses which were pulling the Brewers Dray bolted in the yard and pinned my father against the wall, breaking his pelvis and both of his legs. It was as a result of that, that Mr Phillips gave my father the tenancy of the Isca, a licence which he held for over 50 years until he retired aged 74, when I was 14-years-old.

I remember when Newport Athletic staged cricket matches, athletic tournaments, any outdoor sporting event, my father would have the licence require for the beer tent, so my working life started at about eight-years-old collecting glasses at these occasions.

Quite simply I was brought up the public house and all licensees have a superb record of raising monies for charity. So from this I learned at a very early age that you always help those worse off than you and needing help. Maybe this is why I do so much charity work now.

I passed my eleven plus to the huge delight of my mother and was accepted by Newport High School for Girls. I hated every minute of it. I was a completely square peg in a round hole and I chose to leave just before my 15th birthday. I would imagine it was as much a relief to them as it was to me.

I had a succession of nothing jobs until I joined the borough engineers department of Newport City Council. Again bored out of my mind I lasted just over a year before I joined the Post Office as a telephonist.

I married David Cueto while working there and we had two children, Adrian, who now works as a quality control manager in Cardiff, and Francine, who initially served 18 years as a Queen Alexandra nurse in the army and now works for Frimley Park Trust in a senior role in child safeguarding.

We divorced in 1973 and shortly after I went to live in Devon, as I had the opportunity to manage a country club. Off I went.

It was called Berridon Country Club and it hosted events with the cast of Hair, Long John Baldry, Roy Castle and many more.

I did that for a few years and I married one of the locals, Richard Scaife, who was a qualified engineer, in 1978, and we set up our own workshop.

It was an engineering workshop and blacksmiths forge which included a craft gallery and demonstration area for visitors to watch the forge being worked.

That was developed into a tourist attraction and I also developed a group of other craftsmen with the support of Devon and Cornwall authorities. We staged promotions of our work at Ideal Home Exhibition, Caen Fayre Normandy and last of all Florida State.

I lived in the West Country for 20 years, and, as well as running this business, I also started to work on a casual basis as a radio presenter for both commercial and BBC Radio Devon.

In 1994, after having a divorce, I came home to spend New Year with an old friend, Pat Bees, who worked for the Argus at the time. Prior to my going home, I was asked to call in and see one of the heads of department and I was offered a job to work with the start-up of the new business paper. So, I agreed and 13 days later I was back home.

I really enjoyed it. It was challenging all the time and allowed me to use my creativity.

The editor of the paper then was David Barnes and my role was in sales and development.

Whilst in Cornwall, I had been involved in numerous fund raising events for BBC Radio Devon Children in Need. So when I returned I brought with me a project that I had been working on which was the Christmas Shoe Box. I am delighted to say that Argus readers adopted it wholeheartedly. I also worked with Argus staff on their appeal for St Anne's Hospice in facilitating a wedding memories show at Newport Centre.

I left to join Newport Rugby and again was involved in fund raising. There were fashion shows which ,in many instances, got the players to strut their stuff on the catwalk.

I then formed my own consultancy, offering business support, event management and marketing, and worked with the Newport Chamber of Commerce for six years. During that period I was approached by Lloyds Bank as I was also working with Mike Ruddock, who went on to the became Welsh national rugby coach. The bank asked could I facilitate some sporting lunches for them to distribute to local charities. These are still continuing after 10 years and have raised an enormous amount over this period.

I left the chamber but still continued my consultancy and continued fund raising usually by way of a Christmas lunch held at the Celtic Manor. Last year I also raised funds for Walking with the Wounded an, more recently, The Stroke Association. Only a small amount of people attended, around 90, because many were having their own firm’s Christmas parties. But we raised £1,245.

On my return to Newport, I also joined the Lions Club of Newport and during that period I was honoured to became their first lady president.

In a joint venture with the Freemasons we raised funds for a specialised laser for the Royal Gwent to treat cervical cancer. However my highlight was being approved by Newport City Council to be the lunch partner of H.R.H Prince Phillip when Her Majesty came to give City Status to Newport.

I have created Monmouthshire Business Awards which is now in its fifth year but there is no fund raising element to the awards.

I decided to raise funds for the Stroke Association after I suffered a stroke at a local business awards dinner in 2014.

I was hosting the Gala Awards Dinner and dropped the microphone a few times while I was interviewing. Then my left leg was unable to take my weight but I had no idea that I was having a stroke. I hosted my top table afterwards and the conversation flowed but it was only later whilst lying on my bed in the hotel I knew something was not right.

Not wanting to be ill in a hotel I drove home.

The next morning I was rushed to A&E and underwent a scan where I was told that I had suffered a stroke and I was admitted into hospital.

I recovered well although I still gets tired if I overdo things so I have to project manage myself. I wanted to raise funds for the charity to help other stroke survivors and to help fund the Stroke Association’s research projects, as if it can happen to me, it could happen to you or someone you love.

The stroke has slowed me down, not mentally, but physically which drives me mad. My left foot and leg is the most affected and I have to walk with a stick.

But I am not stupid, I realise how very, very lucky I am and I have had great support from friends and neighbours.

However I am not an easy patient and have always operated at one hundred miles an hour. My daughter tells me I am a nightmare to work with. But I am accepting now that I have had a warning and I must say no more often.