Cicely Merry -2011

My mother, Cicely Merry, who has died aged 78 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, spent most of her life trying to make the world a better place. A community activist in Manchester, she was a Labour councillor in Trafford for 20 years, serving as mayor from 1998 to 1999.

She was born Cicely Lewis in the Forest of Dean, the daughter of a Welsh miner. After moving to Worcester, she joined the Labour party, aged 16, starting a branch of the Labour League of Youth, and later met Dennis Merry, the secretary/agent for the Worcester constituency Labour party. They married in 1958, before moving to Leicester, then Sale, in Manchester.

At a Labour party conference in the early 1960s, after Cicely had moved a successful resolution, Hugh Gaitskell, then leader, sent the chief whip to tell her she was exactly the type of woman he wanted in the parliamentary Labour party. But Cicely put raising family before any parliamentary ambitions; she did not take public office until 1979, when she was elected a Labour/Co-operative councillor in Trafford.

She was a good speaker and an excellent chairman, frequently being elected chair of bodies on which she served, including Trafford planning committee, Greater Manchester Police Authority finance and policy committee, Manchester Labour Friends of Israel, and the conference arrangements committee of the Co-op party.

During her two decades as a councillor no one came to ask for Cicely’s assistance in vain. If she thought something was wrong, she would set about remedying the position. As a lay visitor at Altrincham police station, Cicely was shocked at conditions she found, and was instrumental in getting a new station built. One of her concerns was domestic violence and rape; on the recommendation of the finance committee that she chaired, the police authority financed a new rape crisis centre in St Mary’s hospital, Manchester. When Cicely became mayor she chose Trafford Women’s Aid as a beneficiary of her charity fund.

She is survived by Dennis, my sister, Julia, and me, and five grandchildren.

Leslee Merry