Tributes to Barkingside author and conservationist who died at 40, days before publishing debut novel
PUBLISHED: 17:00 08 July 2020
The family of an author and conservationist from Barkingside pay tribute to the “kindest, warmest, loveliest” woman who died just three days before the release of her debut novel.
City girl Jackie Rohen traded the streets of Redbridge for the remote village of Hoima, Uganda after she met the love of her life, Dr Matt McLennan, a primatologist and conservationist.
Jackie was working at the London School of Musical Theatre in 2013 when she met Matt through an online dating app.
Matt spends half the year in Uganda conserving wild chimpanzees by supporting the households living alongside them and half the year in his London home in Ealing.
Jackie would visit Matt for two-week stretches and then in 2017 she decided to join him full-time and set up the Bulindi Chimpanzee & Community Project.
Once there she threw herself into the project, helping support the impoverished families in the village and protecting the chimpanzees who are in danger due to deforestation.
In her downtime she was constantly writing stories, scripts and plays and after submitting an idea in a story competition in The Daily Mail, Jackie landed a book agent and a publishing deal with Penguin Random House.
Just three days before the book was due to come out, Jackie, 40, died of a pulmonary embolism on April 28 in Uganda.
Jackie’s aunt Andrea Wylde said: “Her life was really coming together.
“She had so many plans for the future - more writing, more conservation, her own wedding.”
The paperback of Jackie’s novel, How To Marry Your Husband comes out today, Thursday, July 9.
Matt said Jackie was eagerly looking forward to the marketing and interviews that would be a part of the book release and seeing the fulfilment of a lifelong dream.
He said: “When we got the call from her agent that Arrow (an imprint of Penguin Random House) was going to publish her book she jumped up and down and was crying with happiness.
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“It was such an acknowledgement of all her work.”
Following her death her family received an outpouring of support from people telling them how much Jackie meant to them.
Andrea said: “She would touch people’s lives in a way that is so rare.
“There was such an outpouring of loss and love from here in London but also in Uganda – she was so loved and they called her Mummy Jackie.”
Matt said Jackie was instrumental in using the skills she learned dealing with people in her background in theatres and TV to help the families in their village in Uganda.
She sponsored the schooling for a number of children, built water wells and planted one million tree seedlings.
Matt described Jackie as a voracious reader who always had her Kindle in her bag anytime they would visit families in Uganda, in case she could sneak in a few pages of reading along the way.
“All the while she was working on a number of ideas for plays, sitcoms, you name it.”
He said while it was tragic she died when she did, at least she was able to finish her book and have it published.
While Jackie was sending in the finishing touches on her debut novel, she was working on ideas for her second and also has a sitcom in development at the BBC.
As a young girl the first job Jackie had was at Fullwell Cross Library.
Andrea said: “That was a magical place for her to be surrounded by all those books and all those things were laying the foundation for what would come to pass.”
The former Caterham High School student had a number of jobs in theatre and TV including in the BBC documentary Tales From Television Centre where she worked with Brian Blessed.
Matt said: “It’s definitely a major blow to me personally because Jackie and I developed a life in Uganda but now I have to just carry on her work.
To support the Bulindi Chimpanzee and Community project visit https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/bulindichimpanzees
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