I am sadly writing this blog to commemorate one of our past Honorary Presidents Mary Turner who sadly died a couple of weeks ago. Mary was appointed in 2010 and was succeeded by our current President, Lord Balfe, in 2015.
Much has been written about Mary and much can be read about her online. Born in Ireland, she joined the trade union movement at 16 and devoted her working life to supporting and representing those who did not have a voice. In the early 1970’s she was working as a dinner lady and developed her lifelong passion to provide free school meals to all children. This is something that helped create the connection between her and the BDA. Since 1997 Mary was President of the GMB and served on the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party, which she chaired in 2004. Mary was awarded an MBE and more recently a CBE in 2017.
I am reminded, when I think of Mary, of one of our other past Presidents, Dame Barbara Clayton. In both amazing people we see strong women, pioneers in their fields and people who were never afraid to challenge and speak out on issues they both felt passionate about. When I think of Mary I will always have very fond memories: of her always wanting to be part of our events and support us publicly; her dry humour and the warmth and humility she showed to everyone around her. However, she was well known for being fearsome and unwavering. In 2010 I was with Mary at the Labour Party conference during the leadership election. I witnessed first-hand the deference, respect (and some may say fear!) that all the leadership candidates showed when they met her. She was inspirational and all our lives have been improved for having had Mary around. Let’s not forget her story and all she achieved.
The GMB website provides more details about Mary’s life and achievements.