Audrey Callaghan

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The Lady Callaghan of Cardiff
Audrey Callaghan in 1978
Spouse of the Prime Minister
of the United Kingdom
In role
5 April 1976 – 4 May 1979
Preceded byMary Wilson
Succeeded byDenis Thatcher
Personal details
Born
Audrey Elizabeth Moulton

(1915-07-28)28 July 1915
Maidstone, England
Died15 March 2005(2005-03-15) (aged 89)
NationalityBritish
Political partyLabour
Spouse(s)
James Callaghan (m. 1938)
Children3, including Margaret
EducationMaidstone Grammar School for Girls
Occupation

Audrey Elizabeth Callaghan, Baroness Callaghan of Cardiff (née Moulton; 28 July 1915 – 15 March 2005) was the wife of prominent British Labour politician James Callaghan. She herself served as a Labour councillor and later became a campaigner and fundraiser for children's health and welfare.

Early life[edit]

She was born in Maidstone, Kent, where her father was a director of the Lead Wool Company, a tool company. She would chair the Maidstone Labour Party and Fabian Society. She joined the Labour Party while in her teens and met her future husband in the early 1930s at the Baptist church Sunday school where they both worked,[1] then at the Labour Party, but they did not marry until 28 July 1938. They honeymooned in Paris and Chamonix and then returned to rent a house in Norwood.

Callaghan was educated at Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, then studied cookery at Battersea College of Domestic Science. She worked as a dietician at an antenatal clinic in Greenwich during the Second World War, a young mother herself. At the same time, she studied economics at a University of London extension course in Eltham, with future Labour Party leader Hugh Gaitskell as tutor. She made a special study of malnutrition in children and its remedies.

Career[edit]

Her husband James had been elected a Member of Parliament for Cardiff in 1945 and she was at his side throughout his career. She was somewhat derided, described as "the Yorkshire Pudding", ostensibly for her skill in cooking, but also as a reference to her perceived poor dress sense and mildly disorganised appearance. She was ridiculed for her hobby of keeping pigs. She remained very private and shunned the limelight. However, she was engaged with her husband's jobs and was said to be instrumental in dissuading him from resignation after the 1967 devaluation of the pound.[1]

In 1958, Audrey was elected as the Labour member for Lewisham North for the London County Council. She took a special interest in children's homes and the Children's Committee. She was an alderman of the Greater London Council from 1964 and became chairman of Lewisham Council's children's committee, where she was also an alderman, when the GLC was abolished.

In 1969 Callaghan became the chair of the board of governors of Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. She continued raising funds for the hospital for the next thirty years, most notably securing an extension of copyright on Peter Pan for the hospital by a Lords amendment moved by her husband.[1]

In 1987, when James was created Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, she became Lady Callaghan. She herself declined a damehood from Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. They retired to a farm in Ringmer, East Sussex, where she kept pigs and he kept cows and sheep, and grew barley. Along with her husband she supported causes relating to the University College of Swansea, of which James Callaghan was president.

During her eighties, Callaghan developed Alzheimer's disease. In July 2001, when her condition had deteriorated, she entered a care home run by Catholic nuns, where her husband visited her every day until her death in March 2005,[1] by which time they had been married for 66 years and together for well over 70. He died just eleven days after her death just a day shy of his 93rd birthday.

Personal life[edit]

She had three children: Margaret Jay, Baroness Jay of Paddington; Julia and Michael.

Titles[edit]

  • Miss Audrey Moulton (28 July 1915 – 28 July 1938)
  • Mrs James Callaghan (28 July 1938 – 23 April 1987)
  • Lady Callaghan (23 April 1987 – 5 November 1987)
  • The Rt Hon The Lady Callaghan of Cardiff (5 November 1987 – 15 March 2005)

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d Langdon, Julia (17 March 2005). "Obituary: Audrey Callaghan". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 April 2013.
Unofficial roles
Preceded by
Mary Wilson
Spouse of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1976–1979
Succeeded by
Denis Thatcher