Margie Dolan, campaigner who devoted life to fighting for social justice

Doctors thought cycling pensioner must have been in her 60s when she was admitted

Monday, 29th October 2018 — By Bernard Miller

Margie Dolan and her mother Hetty Bower

Margie Dolan and her mother Hetty Bower

IF there are genes that contribute to longevity, Margie Dolan clearly inherited them from her mother, Hetty Bower, who, when she died aged 108, was still campaigning actively for peace, social justice and the NHS.

Margie, who has died after a cycling accident in Hertfordshire, enjoyed amazing health and at 80 was totally committed to activism, peace, and concern for others, packing more into every day than most people half her age.

Before joining her local 40-plus cycling club weekly ride in October, she had been out on her bike to collect her newspaper. In a tragic accident, she went over the handlebars, fractured her skull and was air-ambulanced to the Royal London Hospital.

Margie would have been impressed with the superb trauma services the NHS provided but she never regained consciousness or heard the heartfelt messages from friends, including Jeremy Corbyn and his wife Laura.

Admitting her, the hospital thought her age had been given wrongly and she was only 60. Her activist parents had involved Margie and older sister Celia from their earliest days. For decades she could be seen marching, often alongside her mother.

Although she lived and was deeply involved locally in Hertfordshire, she rarely missed a Hiroshima, conscientious objectors or peace commemoration in Tavistock Square and was a well known figure at demonstrations and cultural events in Camden, Islington, Haringey and central London.

Through her mother running a hostel for Czech refugees during the Second World War, she developed an interest in Czech language and culture, spending considerable time there, studying, making and maintaining friends and following the country’s fate up to the present.

At 80 she was still demonstrating to show that refugees and immigrants are welcome here.

Described by Celia as “the bossy one”, Margie taught English and was involved in special needs education, a swimming instructor and environmental activist. Not long before her death, maintaining close friendships with fellow students now spread around the globe, she attended her Dudley College reunion.

An active supporter of CND, Stop the War, Medical Aid for Palestinians, Campaign Against the Arms Trade and Musicians for Peace, in her middle years, as a Communist, trade-unionist and internationalist she opposed the Vietnam War, supported Allende’s Chile, helped to organise opposition in Hertford­shire to Thatcher’s education cuts, was active in the NUT, supported the miners’ strikes against pit closures and campaigned with the Anti-Apartheid movement and other left-wing causes.

A Friend of Mardley Heath, she devoted hundreds of weekends over 20 plus years to recovering and transforming local land (once London landfill) into a nature reserve rich in wildlife.

She gave much time to Amnesty International, writing letters and raising money for prisoners of conscience, and campaigned with Friends of Forster Country.

A member of the Shaw Society, she tried never to miss a performance at nearby Shaw’s Corner. She loved visiting the two pioneering garden cities, Letchworth and Welwyn, delighting in showing visitors around. She performed with her local recorder group in schools and residential homes, and loved gardening, advised by sister Celia, “the brainy one”.

Both were frequent visitors to Kew Gardens. Visitors to her home rarely left without a bottle of her elderflower cordial, jam or samples of her latest experiments in baking. On September 29, she walked several miles for Oxfam to raise money for water projects in Kenya then drove 50 miles to and from her grand­daughter’s birthday party in Muswell Hill, before spending the evening packing.

She involved her six- and eight-year-old grandsons in the adventure of clearing and downsizing for the house move she was due to make on October 10 to be closer to them.

In 2014 she jokingly told Jeremy Corbyn: “If you were leader, I would join the Labour Party and work for you.”

On his candidacy she did, becoming an active party member who worked tirelessly. Margaret Dolan is survived by sister Celia, sons Iain and Richard, daughters-in-law Dorothy and Liz, grandsons Sidney and George, granddaughter Annabelle and ex-husband Ken, is missed by hundreds.

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