Our dear friend and comrade, Bel, passed away on 12 August 2015 after a short illness.
I met Bel quite by accident when I spotted her dear friend Ian Birchall in the foyer of a theatre in Oxford in 2012. I was struck immediately by her witty banter and her kindness. I got to know Bel really well once I was back in Kent. She gave me a room to use in her house while I was studying in London, despite the fact I had known her only for a short while.
Bel was passionate about the NHS and Palestine. She was also a fierce anti-racist. Like many of us, she marched against the war in Iraq and wanted a world without war and poverty. At the age of 70 she joined the SWP. Ian had taken her to Marxism as he thought she might be interested in some of the meetings. She told him she had found her “political home”.
She was kind and generous to everyone she met, always seeing the best in people. She was also a staunchly loyal friend. During the awful SWP faction fight, I saw first-hand how angry Bel became when comrades dared to insult her friends.
She, along with hundreds of others, left the SWP in 2013. But she didn’t give up, and joined rs21 with great enthusiasm and was active in her local Left Unity branch. She had booked up for the rs21 post election meeting and had persuaded Ian to join her. Sadly her failing health (though she didn’t yet know what was wrong with her) prevented her from attending.
She had a fantastic intellect and a keen interest in history, particularly women’s history. She was always open to new ideas and meeting new people.
Bel used to make me laugh out loud when she teased me in her deadpan way, and you had to think twice, before you realised she was doing it!
The last time I saw Bel, she was teasing Ian as usual, from her hospital bed. She was back to her normal witty self, after a few weeks of serious ill health. She continually praised the NHS and the nurses who cared for her.
All the signs were that she would get better, despite the discovery of cancer and underlying heart problems. It came as a real shock when I realised she wasn’t going to make it. Bel died peacefully, surrounded by the people she loved most.
The world is a poorer place without her. I cannot believe I will never see her again. It makes me cry thinking about her.
Bel will be missed by her three children, grandchildren, her dear friend Ian and numerous friends.
Bunny La Roche
15 August 2015