Tributes to Sunderland community campaigner and Labour stalwart who has died aged 89

Tributes are being paid to “one-in-a-million” community campaigner and former teacher who spent her life helping others.

Friday, 29th March 2019, 11:50 am
Updated Friday, 29th March 2019, 11:58 am
Margaret Barnes getting her award from Julie Elliott MP

Margaret Barnes, 89, moved to Sunderland in the 1960s where he husband Bob worked as a college lecturer.

She went on to work in a primary school and spent decades campaigning to improve communities in the city, including dedicated service to the Labour party.

Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott, who had presented Margaret with a Long Service Award just weeks before she died last Thursday, praised her late party colleague.

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“I was deeply saddened to hear of Margaret’s death. She was an incredible woman, with a great sense of honour, who never wavered in her belief that we could build a better world,” said Julie.

“Margaret worked tirelessly for a great many local community causes over the decades and her support for the Labour Party was also unstinting. She will be missed by many, many people.”

Margaret was born in London in 1929 to Elsie and Albert Ringrose. Her father, who worked at King’s Cross Station, joined the Labour Party during World War One – where he served in Palestine.

Albert believed Labour offered “the best way to help people have better lives after the war” and often took Margaret canvassing as a child. She remained involved with Labour throughout her life.

Margaret's daughter Harriet Ward said: “She served as a Labour stalwart for about 70-plus years, starting while Clement Attlee was Prime Minister and leader of the Labour Party.

“This dedication was reflected within other areas of her life, especially with her family and friends. She was truly a remarkable woman and we have some great memories.”

Margaret went to college in Coventry and, while there shemet Bob through a Student Christian Fellowship. Initially he was a Tory voter, but Harriet said Margaret managed to convert him.

The couple later moved to Huddersfield, where Bob worked as a social science lecturer, before they set up home in Sunderland in 1966.

Bob, head of the Social Sciences Department at Sunderland Polytechnic, became a Labour member of Tyne and Wear County Council and died in office in 1977.

With three children at home and one at university, Margaret returned to full-time teaching at Newbottle Primary, having previously taught part-time at St Mary’s Infants and Broadway Juniors.

“Margaret campaigned tirelessly for Labour for decades. She canvassed, leafleted, door-knocked, ran election committees and held many positions,” said friend and Labour colleague Carol Freeman.

“She was active in a wide range of community campaigns over the years as well, notably Women Against Pit Closures – when she joined the camp outside Vane Tempest pit in Seaham.

“On a personal level, she was a loyal and steadfast friend. She had a great sense of fun and really enjoyed amusing her friends and family – and sharing their laughter. She will be greatly missed."

Among the political posts held by Margaret were chair of the women’s section, as well as delegate to the Constituency Labour Party in Sunderland South, Sunderland North and Sunderland Central.

The political campaigner, who lived in Barnes before her death, also served as a delegate to the Tyne and Wear Euro Party during the time of Joyce Quin, and later to MEP Alan Donnelly.

Ian Galbraith, councillor for Barnes, said: “Margaret was an inspiration to us all. She was a one-in-a-million woman who fought for what she believed in – a better world for all. We will all miss her.”