A HUGE hole has been left in a rural community following the sudden loss of the woman who ran its village shop for nearly 50 years.

Residents in Castle Carrock, near Brampton, were devastated to hear of the death of Margaret Harrison, who was described as being like a mother to the village.

About 300 people, including family, friends and villagers packed Carlisle’s Crematorium to pay their respects to the woman they confided in and who gave them much more than a village shop.

The 82-year-old, who died at home from an aneurysm of the heart, was dedicated to the shop and her customers.

She was renowned for giving village children free sweets – and many of those now grown-up youngsters have paid their own tributes.

Richard Johnstone, who lives opposite the village shop, said: “She was like a mother to the village in many ways.

“She was always cheerful and she was always pleased to see you.

“She treated everybody as an individual and she was a huge source of information.

“She knew what was going on but she was never a gossip.”

Despite setbacks, including the loss of the post office services and a scare after she was threatened by a masked armed robber, nothing was going to stop Margaret, who died on Valentine’s Day, opening the shop.

Margaret’s daughter Julie Harrison said: “[About 15 years ago] this person came in with a machete and she was wavering then because she was so scared to go in the shop after that. But she was defiant really in a way because nobody was going to let her close her little shop.

“We put a mirror up in the hall so she could see who was in the shop because she was frightend to go round the corner, but she overcame her fear because she loved it so much and she wanted to provide that service.”

Julie, 57, continued: “She wouldn’t give up. She just wanted to work right until the end, which is what she did. It was her friendliness, her calmness and her kindness [that brought people back].

“They used to confide in her. When the post office closed we all thought then she would give up because it wouldn’t be financially viable to keep it open, but she didn’t.

“It was a facility in the village that she felt was important.”

Though in later years the shop might not have been as profitable as it had been in the past, Margaret continued to open well into her retirement because she felt she had a duty to the village.

Even through her own poor health, she didn’t like to close early because she didn’t want to let people down.

The mother-of-four, who also leaves nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, would arrange doctors’ appointments so she could be back in the shop when children finished school and would come to buy sweets.

Julie said: “There were so many kids who grew up in the village who commented on Facebook that they didn’t have enough money and Margaret used to give them sweets.

“Dad said: ‘You wouldn’t make any money, and that’s why’ – because she was giving them all away.”

Margaret’s husband Bob was a huge support to her.

Before he retired, he was sorting office manager for the Post Office in Brampton but would go to the suppliers, do the banking and sort the newspapers as she could not drive.

The couple, who celebrated their diamond wedding anniversary last year, met when Bob was a footballer for Carlisle United and it was love at first sight.

Shortly after they married they moved to Manchester but returned with their young family about 48 years ago when they bought the business.

They worked together until Bob got a job as a postman to supplement the business.

In its heyday they used to take orders from people and he would deliver groceries all along the fellside for free on Fridays.

Julie said: “I used to go with him. There was huge boxes of stuff. Sometimes we’d have to do two runs. It was very busy then because it was before supermarkets.”

The family are due to open the shop next Friday, Saturday and the following Monday to sell off the remaining stock but are unsure that it will ever trade after that.