Corbyn leads tributes to former mayor

Edna Griffiths, who has died aged 81, was an 'active councillor and peace campaigner'

Friday, 30th November 2018 — By Emily Finch

Edna Griffiths

The ‘greatly missed’ Edna Griffiths

FOR Edna Griffiths, the death of her husband prompted a new beginning. At 49 years old, the NHS health administrator would go on to complete a degree in politics and become the Mayor of Islington.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn paid tribute to her this week as an “active councillor and peace campaigner”.

Edna died on October 19. She was 81 years old.

Born to a painter and decorator father and a stay-at-home mother, Edna spent her early years in Birmingham. Her mother died while giving birth to Edna’s younger sister Pauline and the sisters were looked after by their aunt.

Edna’s son David Griffiths said: “She was a tough person and she often said that was because her father was a tough person. She had a fairly hard life growing up with her mother dying. She was a very strong character in my life.”

Edna married Harry, a man 17 years her senior, in January 1960. They both moved to London in search of a better life.

Their first home was a Peabody flat in Finsbury, an area Edna would devote herself to as a public servant.

The couple, now with David in tow, would later be one of the first families in Braithwaite House, where their neighbours were the parents of the infamous Kray Twins.

Times were tough for the family and Edna juggled three jobs at one point in order to put food on the table.

One of her jobs saw her work as a cleaner for the actor Walter Gotell, who featured in a slew of James Bond films as a quintessential baddie.

“She never complained about all the work she had to do and got on with it,” said David.

Following the death of her husband Harry from stomach cancer, Edna put herself forward to be a Labour councillor in Islington South. To make sure she did the best job possible, she also studied for a degree in Politics with the Open University.

David said: “She had Labour roots all her life. She always bought the Daily Mirror.

“She considered herself a strong working-class person, old Labour. She was really devoted to helping people with their housing issues.”

Former colleague Mr Corbyn paid tribute to Edna and said “she would be greatly missed”.

He said: “I knew Edna for many years as an active member of the Labour party, a councillor and a peace campaigner. She was a devoted servant on behalf of the people of Islington as a dedicated councillor and mayor.

“I got on extremely well with Edna and considered her a very good friend. I greatly valued the support she gave me over the years.”

In 1992, Edna was chosen to be mayor of the borough and was given a year’s leave from her role at the NHS.

During this time, she met her favourite member of the Royal Family – Princess Diana – and was invited twice to the Queen’s garden party at Buckingham Palace.

Friend and neighbour Joe Hagland, who lived near Edna at her assisted living facility off Highbury Fields, said: “Edna was so proud of her year as mayor. She’s a very staunch person. She could make people jump into action.”

Edna died at a care home in Braintree, Essex, from a lung infection. She leaves her son David, daughter-in-law Linnea and three grandchildren, Lisa, Steve and James.

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