Offbeat Video

By James Somper

A grandma who has become Britain’s longest serving professional whistler has said she will continue to blow her tune until her dying breath.

For over half a century Sheila Harrod, 75, has delighted audiences across the world with her unique talent.

 

 

 

 

Sheila, from Sutton Bonington, Leicestershire, can whistle the tune to any song or piece of music imaginable and frequently sells out on tickets to her concerts.

The retired hairdresser has even performed on Britain’s Got Talent, Blue Peter and the Graham Norton Show and says her remarkable talent has helped her keep in shape.

The grandmother of four said: “People have always been amazed.

“It’s certainly something that’s unusual, it gives me and other people great pleasure.

“I’m probably the only person around these days who still whistles at performances.

“It’s taken me all over the world; Cyprus, Spain, the Canary Islands and the Dominican Republic.”

Sheila said her amazing whistling was first noticed by chance on a family outing when she was a teenager.

She said: “I’ve been doing this since 1957.

“I had a windup gramophone and an old record of a whistler called Ronnie Ronalde.

“I must have been only 13-years-old but I loved the sound and tried to copy it as best I could.

“One day I was out fishing with my family and this noise just came out from me. My parents heard it and couldn’t believe it.

“They took me to a working man’s club, stood me on a chair because I couldn’t reach the microphone and it just began from there.

“At the end of that first performance people were absolutely shocked that someone so small and young could make this powerful sound and reach such high notes.”

Sheila was quickly spotted by a talent agent who drove her around the UK each weekend on tours of theatres and working men’s clubs.

Over the years she has performed across the UK and as far away as South America.

She said: “I started to go round on tours across the Midlands and Scotland.

“Back in those days it was very exciting.

“I used to go up on a Friday evening, do a few concerts over the weekend and then come home on a Sunday evening.”

 

Shelia said that her unusual hobby has even benefited her health and increased her lung capacity.

She said: “It’s definitely benefited my health.

“I had an x-ray and the nurse said my lungs are massive. I got pneumonia when I was small but I could still whistle.”

Sheila composes some of her own tunes to whistle and has a strict practice routine she goes through to keep her whistle to a high standard.

 

She said: “I practice new songs as often as I can. I find if I don’t whistle for a while I have to put my hands in cold water so they’re clean, it makes the whistle sharper.

“I always practice before shows and as often as I can.

“You can’t whistle in a dressing room so you can’t warm up otherwise it’s bad luck.

“I have a very specific technique which I’ve honed over the years.

“I use the second and fourth fingers on my right hand and hold the middle finger down with my thumb and then I curl my tongue back and just blow.

“I use my left hand for sound and bird calls.”

Despite her busy life as a business owner and mum of two says she’s always been able to fit in her beloved whistling.

She said: “I’ve done it whenever I could.

“Growing up my children were embarrassed, if I whistled at school events they’d sigh and say ‘mother’.

“Performing though was great. I did pantomimes, it helped me earn a bob or two when I was younger, it was really nice.”

Now divorced and in her 70s Sheila says she’s determined to whistle her tunes as often as she can.

She said: “I don’t have any ties in my life now so I can do what I want.

“My dream is to go to America or New Zealand.

“Even if it’s just sitting in a dive bar whistling along with the the piano I’d love to go.”