A mum who fled to the borough with nothing after the man who sexually abused her left prison has turned her life around and launched her own business.
Lyndsey Hughes, who has just opened one-stop salon Ada-Rose Beauty in the middle of Ashton, is stunned by her current success after hitting rock bottom a few years ago.
She decided to make a clean break from her native South Wales after her stepfather was released from jail having served a 14-year sentence for an sickening catalogue of offending that began when she was just eight and lasted throughout her teenage years.
Lyndsey got her children and possessions into the car and decided on Wigan because it was far enough away and she also had a friend who was from the borough.
She faced further dark times though as she faced life as a single mum-of-three, especially as her youngest son John-James has autism.
Fortunately she was able to move forward thanks to the services of charities in the borough, volunteering roles and counselling, all of it fuelling a growing confidence and happiness which allowed her to tackle a move into the beauty industry.
Now fully qualified, the 41-year-old has her own business in Palace Arcade in Ashton-in-Makerfield with a number of self-employed beauticians working in the salon with her.
Lyndsey expressed her deep gratitude to everyone who has helped her and said the borough has played a huge role in transforming her life.
She said: “I love Wigan, it’s my home now.
“I go back to Wales to visit my parents and friends and I feel at home when I cross over the bridge.
But then I leave and come back over the bridge to go to Wigan and get the same feeling.
“I still can’t believe I’ve got the salon: it’s like a dream.
“My friends say they’re proud of me because I’ve come so far and done so much but to me it’s just my life.
“It is what it is, I can’t go back and change it.
“All I can do is try to make my life better going forwards.
“So many people get caught up in drugs or depression and, don’t get me wrong, I’ve had problems of my own inmy time but, hopefully, publicising my story shows people that there can be life and success after this.”
Lyndsey suffered more than a decade of abuse at the hands of Gerald Marsh and went to the police after suffering a breakdown and telling a doctor and her ex-husband what had happened to her.
He was handed a lengthy spell in custody for his offending, but when his sentence was served and she was faced with the prospect of his returning to the community, Lyndsey knew she had to leave.
She said: “It was just terrifying.
“Up until then I was fine because he was in prison and couldn’t come anywhere near me, although I had my bad days.
“I just panicked.
“I got the two girls, got the car, filled it up as much as I could from the house and drove up to Wigan.
“I’ve been really lucky because the first time I told my family what he did they believed me straight away.
“I’ve always had that full support going through everything, but I needed to get away from Chepstow.”
Lyndsey still faced difficult times in Wigan, as John-James’s father left her shortly after the youngster’s autism diagnosis and she found herself isolated.
Help was at hand, though, and through the charity Scope and Leigh organisation Compassion in Action, she was able to rebuild her world.
Lyndsey said: “I was on my own with no support but Scope brought someone from their befriending service to see me.
“She provided emotional support and when it came to the end of my time with her I said I wanted to do what she did.
“I became a befriender myself and it was amazing to be able to give other people support.
“I first went to Compassion in Action a couple of years ago because a friend of mine could see I was struggling.
“She recommended counselling at Compassion in Action and it was amazing.
“Sharing your darkest secrets with someone can be really awkward, but when I went to see her I was asked if I wanted a cup of coffee and then we just sat down on comfy chairs and chatted away.
“Being abused gives you ways of dealing with things and you react without realising.
“She helped me change my mindset and thought process.”
Lyndsey’s progress allowed her to consider her own professional future and she decided to train for the beauty industry.
She first learned make-up from Emmy Denaro, who runs a training academy in Wigan, but she increasingly decided she wanted to run a salon catering to everyone’s beauty needs and trained to offer waxing as well.
With all her certificates Lyndsey then managed to find a small place available in the centre of Ashton close to the Post Office and opened with a bit of assistance from a Government loan.
She is now offering everything from eyelash treatments to waxing to nails to spray tans, and has named it in memory of her much-loved grandma whose name was Ada.
She is also determined to offer something back to the community and is using her experiences as a parent with autism to offer a safe and quiet space for parents and children needing a break from the sensory overload during the town’s Hallowe’en trail.
Lyndsey is particularly keen to help Wigan’s families as it is on the subject of education that she is particularly keen to sing the borough’s praises.
She said: “John-James goes to Rowan Tree School in Atherton and I cannot believe the difference it has made.
“He’s come on so much it blows my mind.
“He’s now speaking in short sentences even though he’s non-verbal and we’re hoping he will be reclassified.”
Her 14-year-old daughter Abigail is attending The Byrchall High School in Ashton-in-Makerfield while her eldest child Rhiannon, 19, is studying a foundation course in health and social care at Manchester Metropolitan University.
Lyndsey says that it was her children that kept her going through all the toughest periods of her life.
She said: “My family is my world. If it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here. They spur me to go on and I want to be a role model for my kids.”