Mary Renshaw obituary

Other lives: Teacher who brought adults, often single mothers, back into education and work

A generation of south Wales social history formed the background to the life of my wife, Mary Renshaw, who has died aged 83.

Born in Newport, south Wales, to Irene (nee Byrne) and Isaac Davies, she grew up in the pit village of Cwm just south of Ebbw Vale in Blaenau Gwent. Her father was a steel worker during a period when the second world war and the postwar economic boom brought prosperity to a region that had earlier felt the scourge of unemployment.

Mary spent Sundays playing the organ in the local Presbyterian chapel, and was imbued with a culture that included the miners’ institute, rugby union and the socialism of Aneurin Bevan, the local MP. After attending Ebbw Vale grammar school between 1947 and 1954, she went to Canley teacher training college in Coventry and then taught music at secondary schools in Wiltshire and in West Ham in east London.

She and I married in 1959 and, as was common among her generation of educated women, she put the interests of her husband first by helping me through graduate studies at Oxford University and then Northwestern University in Chicago. I began a career in journalism, and wherever we lived Mary took jobs that would fit in with mine, often teaching in further and adult education settings. In 1981 her experience in that field led to her appointment as head of the Adult Literacy and Basic Skills Unit in Sheffield.

There Mary did some excellent work in bringing adults, often single mothers, back to education and thence into jobs. Her energy and organisational skills were remarkable, as was her ability to make friends.

In retirement she read voraciously, was an enthusiastic bridge player, played the piano, and sang most days for an hour.

Mary is survived by me, our son, Donovan, daughter, Rebecca, and granddaughter, Alexandra. Two other sons, Richard and Caradoc, predeceased her.

Patrick Renshaw

The GuardianTramp

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