A surprise party to celebrate a lifetime of community campaigning and service to the Labour Party has been held in honour of former Sunderland teacher Margaret Barnes.

Margaret, 89, was presented with a Labour Party Long Service Award by Sunderland Central MP Julie Elliott during the event this week, to mark decades of dedication to the Labour cause.

“It was a very nice surprise to receive the award,” said Margaret, from Barnes. “I’m not exactly sure where I’ll put it, but will definitely find somewhere where visitors to the house will be able to see it.”

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.

“My father believed the Labour Party was probably the best way to help people have better lives after the war. He and my grandmother were also involved in trade union councils,” said Margaret.

“My parents met at a Labour Party tennis club in the 1920s and married in 1927. I remember as a child being taken out canvassing by my father, and I have been involved with Labour ever since.

Margaret went to college in Coventry and, while there, met her husband Bob Barnes through a Student Christian Fellowship. Initially he was a Tory voter, but Margaret managed to convert him.

The couple later moved to Huddersfield, where Bob worked as a social science lecturer, before setting up home in Sunderland in 1966 – both transferring their Labour Party membership to here.

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.

“Over the years Margaret has been a stalwart Labour supporter, serving in a great many positions,” said Julie. “She has also canvassed, leafleted, door-knocked and run election committee rooms.”

Her many jobs for Labour included long-time chair of the women’s section as well as delegate to the Constituency Labour Party in Sunderland South, Sunderland North and, latterly, Sunderland Central.

She was also a delegate to the Tyne and Wear Euro Party during the time of Joyce Quin, and later to MEP Alan Donnelly.

“Margaret was active in many community campaigns as well, notably Women Against Pit Closures, joining the camp outside Vane Tempest pit in Seaham,” said Julie.

“Her support for the Labour Party has been unwavering and her support for candidates unstinting.  Margaret really deserves an award for her work for Labour and I was delighted to present it to her.”

Margaret and Julie
Margaret and Julie
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