Audrey Callaghan, Baroness Callaghan of Cardiff

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The Right Honorable
The Lady Callaghan of Cardiff
Spouse of the Prime Minister
of the United Kingdom
In office
5 April 1976 – 4 May 1979
Monarch Elizabeth II
Prime Minister James Callaghan
Preceded by Mary Wilson
Succeeded by Denis Thatcher
Personal details
Born Audrey Elizabeth Moulton
28 July 1915
Maidstone
Died 15 March 2005 (aged 89)
Nationality British
Spouse(s) James Callaghan
Children Margaret
Julie
Michael
Religion Baptist

Audrey Elizabeth Callaghan, Baroness Callaghan of Cardiff (née Moulton; 28 July 1915 – 15 March 2005)[1] was the wife of British Prime Minister James Callaghan and was herself a politician and campaigner and fundraiser for children's health and welfare.

Biography[edit]

She was born in Maidstone, Kent where her father was a director of the Lead Wool Company, a tool company. She would chair 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 July 1938. They honeymooned in Paris and Chamonix then returned to rent a house in Norwood.

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

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 1959, Audrey was elected as Labour member for Lewisham 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 James. [1]

In 1987, when James was created Baron Callaghan of Cardiff, she became Lady Callaghan. She herself refused a damehood from 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; by which time they had been married for 66 years and together for well over 70. He died just eleven days after her death.

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

Shorthand titles[edit]

  • Miss Audrey Moulton (28 July 1915–1938)
  • Mrs James Callaghan (1938–23 April 1987)
  • The Honourable Lady Callaghan (23 April 1987 – 5 November 1987)
  • The Right Honourable 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. 
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Mary Wilson
Spouse of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom
1976–1979
Succeeded by
Denis Thatcher