Sunday, 29 September 2013

Joan Coleman RIP, President and Chair of Southport Liberals and much more besides

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

It was with enormous sadness that I learned earlier this week that Joan Coleman had died. She had been in a nursing home for some while.

Joan, a Scot, was a stalwart of Southport Liberals and later Lib Dems. In her own right she was a formidable politician but her contribution extended far beyond party politics; she was a charity worker, a senior magistrate, real ale advocate and a family women.

In 1965 she was in the small market town (was it at Hawick ?)  in the Scottish borders when the declaration of the Roxburgh, Selkirk and Peebles by-election- which sent David Steel to parliament -took place. She and her husband Jack had been campaigning there. It was not Joan's first outing as a campaigner she had supported Jack when he fought Central Ayrshire in 1950. Jack had been recruited as a candidate by the redoubtable Lady Louise Glen Coats who was also instrumental in getting Grimond to fight Orkney and Shetland and Beveridge to contest Berwick on Tweed. She was also involved in discussions after the war with Scottish National Liberals as this article by Ian Hunter  explains. 

Whilst still in Scotland Joan  attended her first candidates meeting in North Berwick where she said Jo Grimond 'put fire in their bellies'. The family moved to St Helens where Jack had a senior job with Pilkington's and in 1959 the made their final move to Southport.

Jack  was the Parliamentary Candidate in Southport in 1964 and 1966 as well as being a West Ward Councillor-he was elected to the Council in 1961 with a young Michael Meadowcroft acting as agent. Joan was active in the Women's Liberal Association as the press cutting below demonstrates  It is good to read her robust advocacy for the European cause: '...Britain should be integrated into Europe and influence the tide of events, the better' . .......she goes on  'Pig-headedly the Government had insisted on Britain having its own H Bomb. The Liberals believe that it should not.....' I can testify to the strength of Joan's opinions on disarmament. She was chair of the constituency when I fought the 1983 general election. Some 'less than progressive' people were upset with my opposition to Britain acquiring Trident as an extension of the Polaris Sale Agreement. Joan was having no such nonsense and firmly expressed her views to all ! (Incidentally another Southport Women's Liberal, Madge Goldberg -formerly a Southport Councillor- also gave me a very firm 'talking to' in case I would waiver under the pressure. I did not. Many visiting Liberals who came to Southport satyed with the Colemans including Richard Wainwright and Desmond Banks

Joan was a great support to me and the wider Liberal cause in the town. She opened her house for Birkdale Ward fundraising events. It was at one of these that I discovered her in interest in Real Ale. We held a Real Ale 'Beer and Bangers' social. We had a barrel of beer from a local brewery-I think this was in the early days of Southport Brewery-and she regaled us all with tales of how she and Jack used to seek our real ale pubs. I understand that occasionally she was to be found in Southport's premier Real Ale pub- The Guest House. On another occasion at a Burns' evening social she read the Ode to a Haggis in her lowland Scots voice-I think, like Burns, she came from Ayrshire-though I may have got that wrong. (I stand corrected Joan was born in Glasgow and brought up in Irving, Ayrshire,)

Joan's family was central to her life. She was a great supporter of her husband. Her daughter Veronica was a teacher at KGV. Veronica suffered from a kidney disease and as the Southport Visiter reported:  'In 1983, Mrs Coleman donated a kidney to her dying daughter – adding a further nine years to her life.
Sadly, Veronica, a teacher at King George V, died at 56 when her kidney failed due to diabetes.
Joan told the Visiter: “The Southport Kidney Fund is 30 years old this year and we’ve always wanted a dialysis unit in Southport.
Joan had set up the charity in 1979.
Joan had three sons the eldest Roddy is a keen sailor, Julian lives in Oban and Mark the youngest is a Church of England clergyman in Liverpool. ( I learn that when hsi father was the PPC Mark won a 'baby contest' at St Paul's Church which was judged by Tory MP Ian Percival 
Joan was not only respected she was well liked. She carried a natural authority but had a warm friendly and generous spirit.

I understand that the funeral will  take place at 11.30 am at St James’ Church, Lulworth Road Birkdale on Monday 7thOctober -further details when I get them


  1. Thanks for this Iain, I really appreciate this.

    Very interesting reading about her early political work, especially now I am in the same field.

    Jack Coleman (grandson)

    1. Thanks for getting in touch. Your grand mother was a real inspiration. We held a fund raising event for the kidney fund she set up last night.


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