Tributes have been paid to Margaret Woodburn – a champion of the Egremont community – who has died aged 86.
Margaret was a Copeland Borough councillor for 30 years and spent almost 40 years serving Egremont Town Council, initially as a councillor and, from 1987 to 2016, as clerk.
She was mayor of Copeland in 1991/92 and, on leaving Copeland Council in 2011, was made an Alderman of the Borough.
Margaret, who died on Sunday, has been described by her family and council colleagues as a strong, committed and compassionate woman, who put the needs of others before her own. She leaves children Michael, Geraldine, Elaine and Jeremy, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
On behalf of the Woodburn family, daughters Geraldine and Elaine said: “We are extremely proud of mam and everything she achieved in her life.
“She was committed to her family, her community and her faith, and dedicated herself to helping people; nothing was too much trouble for her and the kind words we have received since she died show how much love and respect there is for her in the community.”
Born in Wath Brow, Margaret moved to Egremont soon after her marriage to Kenneth in 1959.
“Once she moved to Egremont, she adopted the town as her home and never left; she never wanted to be anywhere else.
“She was an integral part of the community, and when we were children, our house was ‘open house’ to anyone with a problem; once she volunteered for something – whether that was fundraising or posting election leaflets – the whole household was volunteered whether we wanted to or not!”
Margaret battled through some incredibly tough times, say her family.
In 1981, she lost her father Joe and, within 24 hours, her husband Kenneth died aged 45. Later the same year, her mother Winnie died.
“Mum kept incredibly strong for us,” say Geraldine and Elaine.
“She made sure everyone else was okay before she looked after herself. She juggled work and bringing up four children as a single parent. We don’t know how she did it.”
Margaret was first elected to Copeland Council in 1981; winning a by-election for her late husband’s Egremont North seat.
During a 30-year career at Copeland, highlights included lobbying for the Egremont bypass and a pedestrian crossing at Bigrigg, and she played a key role in the regeneration of Egremont.
Her year as mayor was particularly memorable, say the family, in which she attended hundreds of community engagements and raised £20,000 for the Calvert Trust and a charity to support those with rheumatoid arthritis. “Mam was so proud of being elected to this role and loved every minute of it.”
Alongside her position as town council clerk – “a role that she absolutely loved” – Margaret was instrumental in a host of successful initiatives in the town during her lengthy career, including restarting Egremont Carnival and launching the Friends of Egremont Castle group, the Amenity Committee/Christmas lights events, and the Keep Egremont Tidy campaign.
“She was very knowledgeable and a good listener.
“She gave everything 110 per cent, such was her determination to get things done and help those she represented to the best of her ability. She loved meeting people and would talk to everyone, and she immediately put people at ease with her warmth,” Elaine and Geraldine said.
Elaine followed her mother into local politics and spent 20 years on Copeland Council; including the last 12 as Council leader.
She said: “When I received my MBE in 2015, I accepted it on behalf of Mam and the whole Woodburn family; it was a joint effort and reflects how much Mam guided and supported her family. She was an inspiration to us all.”
Tributes have been paid by council colleagues from Copeland and Egremont.
Pat Graham, chief executive of Copeland Council, said: “On behalf of Copeland Council, we are incredibly saddened to learn that Margaret has passed away.
“She was a dedicated community champion and represented the people of Egremont with distinction and passion for many years. We extend our deepest condolences to Margaret’s family.”
Neil Ferguson, chair of Egremont Town Council, said: “Margaret was a fantastic lady and her death is a huge loss to the community. She had tremendous knowledge and ability that benefited Egremont Town Council over many years.
“She always put others first and treated everyone with honesty and integrity.”
Michael McVeigh, leader of the Labour Group on Copeland Council, said: “Margaret was a stalwart of the Egremont community and she showed great determination to improve the lives of the people she represented.
“She was active in local issues until the very end of her life, and the impact she made will continue to benefit this area for years to come.”