Mary Turner CBE: Memorial at St Paul’s Cathedral to honour Kilburn’s GMB union leader
- Credit: Andrew Wiard / reportphotos.com
A memorial service, previously granted to Sir Winston Churchill and Martin Luther King, has been bestowed on a trade union “trailblazer” from Kilburn.
Mary Turner CBE, whose role as a dinner lady in Brent was to spearhead free school meals for children, was remembered at a special ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday.
The 79-year-old, who died last July, was president of the GMB trade union as well as chair of the Labour Party’s National Executive Committee.
Thousands of mourners turned out to pay their respects at the Cathedral’s morning service, which is believed to be the first time the honour has been bestowed on a trade union leader.
Tim Roache, GMB General Secretary said: “Our Mary was a true giant of the trade union movement and the beating heart of GMB for decades.
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“This memorial reflects the great legacy she leaves as a tireless defender of working people. It is hugely deserved.
“She left this world having made a real difference to so many people’s lives, and that’s something we are all proud of.”
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Born in Tipperary, Ms Turner grew up in northern England before settling in Kilburn.
She was married to Denny Turner for 59 years who passed away in 2015.
In the 1970s she worked part–time as a dinner lady in Brent and became a powerful advocate of free school meals and a tireless campaigner for jobs and rights at work.
She receiving an MBE 2010 and a CBE in 2017 and continued in her post as president, chairing GMB’s 100th annual conference in Plymouth in June last year.
Mr Roache added: “They really did break the mould when they made Mary Turner. She may be gone, but she has left behind a union that will ensure the values and principles she fought tirelessly for will always endure.”
Warren Kenny, GMB London region secretary described her as “a servant to the people” adding: “Mary inspired so many to realise their potential in life as she dedicated her life to helping others.
“She was a giant, warm giving person whose passing will be mourned by all.”