Tributes to former mayor ‘Aunt Cath’ who helped protect country from Hitler

Cathy Brown with friend Joyce Slingsbury during her time with the ATC
Cathy Brown with friend Joyce Slingsbury during her time with the ATC
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Tributes have been paid to a former South Tyneside Mayor whose passion for politics and social justice knew no bounds.

Cathy Brown was affectionately known as ‘Aunt Cath’ to friends and neighbours in Lincoln Road, South Shields, where she lived most of her adult life.

Cathy Brown as Mayor with consort Nancy Clarke

Cathy Brown as Mayor with consort Nancy Clarke

Mrs Brown, who was Mayor of South Tyneside in 1997, died at South Tyneside Hospital aged 92 after suffering from heart failure on July 21.

She moved to the area from Birkenhead in 1946 - and it was here that the long-time Labour supporter eventually began to find her feet in the world of campaigning and politics.

In 1983 she stood with 30,000 women at Greenham Common calling for the removal of cruise missile and - just a day after retiring as a domestic manager at Ingham Infimrary in 1984 - she was was at the town’s Armstrong Hall helping to put food parcels together for the striking miners.

Two years later she stood as a local councillor in Horsley Hill, returning the seat back to Labour for the first time in 13 years.

Cathy Brown meets the Queen during a visit to South Shields

Cathy Brown meets the Queen during a visit to South Shields

Son Phil Brown said: “We had some happy times growing up. We used to go down to Marsden beach as a family and dad used to teach all the kids how to swim. They were really happy days.

“She was proud of her time in the Auxiliary Territorial Services and and was a keen activist leading 50,000 NALGO National Health Service workers into the National TUC.

“She lived before the creation of the NHS and always said hospitals should be treated like cathedrals.”

Her son has described his mum as an “effective first aider “ who thought nothing of going under a milk float to save a child or during the war years, diving into a neighbours house to help put out a fire and supporting a young woman who had become a widow eight hours after becoming a wife, when her husband was killed in a bombing raid.

Cathy front right before she headed down the pits to see what life was like for the miners

Cathy front right before she headed down the pits to see what life was like for the miners

During her time in the ATS she was a gunsight operator during the war and played a part in defending London from Hitler’s bombs.

In 2005, she travelled to London - days after it was hit by suicide bombers - to pay tribute to her commrades as a memorial was unveiled dedicated to the part women played in the Second World War.

At the time she defiantly said: “Bombs did not put me off in 1940, and they were certainly not going to put me off now.”

Cathy was also the councillor who introduced former South Shields MP David Miliband to the area and the pair became firm friends.

Mr Miliband said: “I am very sorry to hear about the passing of Cathy Brown. Cathy was one of the first people I met in South Shields in 2001. She was strong in her values, clear in her principles, passionate in her advocacy - and a straight talker!

“She told me: “Young man, work your socks off, treat everyone as equal, and remember family comes first.” Cathy always asked how the children and Louise were doing, as well as what I was thinking about politics. She was from a special generation and made a special contribution. My sincere condolences to her family.”

Alongside her passion for politics, Cathy was also a devoted wife to husband Jack, whose death in 1973 left her heartbroken.

Mr Brown added: “My dad was my mam’s one true love. She never got over the heartbreak over losing him. She described them as two imperfect people who were perfect for each other.

“My mam was a real people person and we would like to think she was a woman of the people, humble but also a great campaigner for justice.

“She is going to be missed by us all.”

A young Cathy Brown

A young Cathy Brown

A service will be held for Mrs Brown at Holy Rosary Church in Horsley Hill Square at 2.15pm on Friday, followed by a burial at St Peter’s Church in Harton.

A wake will be held at South Shields Town Hall.

Cathy second left with the girls from the ATC

Cathy second left with the girls from the ATC