My friend Vicki Martin, who has died aged 86, worked in social care for many years before becoming a social work assessor operating across the whole of Wales. Vicki’s life embodied social justice and the importance of investing in better futures for everyone.
After starting out in the field as a support worker for people with learning disabilities at Bryn y Neuadd hospital, Llanfairfechan, in the 1970s, Vicki was a maternity unit social worker at St David’s hospital, Bangor, in the 80s, and then an assessor in the 90s. For the duration of her working life, Vicki was a volunteer counsellor for the bereavement charity Cruse, co-running the Menai Bridge group until it was closed down during the initial Covid-19 lockdown.
I met Vicki in 1978 at Gregynog Hall, when she and I embarked on social work training at Bangor University. She invited me to share her house, along with a cat, a parrot and two of her three daughters from her first marriage, to John Rose, which ended in divorce in 1982. Vicki was a folk singer who had sung at the Troubadour restaurant at Earl’s Court. Her car was a former London taxi cab.
She also worked variously as a chef, running a catering-van service in Eryri (the former Snowdonia National Park) with her first husband; as a millionaire’s housekeeper in Harlech in the 60s; a cafe manager at Penrhyn Castle (c1969-71), and a Citizens Advice Bureau volunteer in Bangor (c1976-77).
Vicki had a drop-everything readiness to support people who were struggling through poverty, bereavement, disability or mental distress. From 2006 to 2010, she was the chair of the Abbey Road Centre, a Bangor-based charity supporting mental health, and remained a trustee until she died.
In 1985, she married John Martin, whom she had met through friends. They entertained many people in their home, and my partner and I were delighted to be in their bubble during the Covid pandemic.
When Vicki contracted spondylitis ossificans, a type of arthritis, she was often in pain. She adjusted to her condition, yet defiantly declined to use her stairlift. She believed in making the best of the time available to her, taking pride in her and John’s children and grandchildren, adding to their beautiful garden, reading and continuing to contribute.
Born in Ealing, west London, to Grace (nee Fryer) and Frank Ainsley, a cabinet maker, at the age of 11 Vicki went to Lordsfield independent school in Hampshire, having been awarded a bursary for underprivileged children. A few years later she returned to London, where she attended Greenford grammar school and, later, art college. Vicki was raised in a political household, and was a lady mayoress to her mother in Ealing in 1955, and in 1988 and 2001 in Bangor to John.
Vicki’s stepson James and grandson Jack predeceased her. She is survived by John, her daughters, Coral, Jennie and Marina, her stepsons Richard and Tim, and 10 grandchildren.