Marion Fergusson Kelly
DescriptionBorn just seven weeks before the end of the First World War, Marion Farmer lived with her parents, Ralph Murray Farmer, a colliery section manager, and Isobel, née Spence in Leslie in Fife, Scotland. She was the second of three children, the other two being Christine and David.
In 1938, after completing her education at the Girls’ High School at nearby Kirkcaldy, she moved to London where she first worked as a governess. She then found employment with G. E. Frigidaire, in the personnel department.
In her spare time, Marion organised social events for servicemen, mainly fellow Scots, including members of the Scottish Caledonian Club, who were far from home. During a bombing raid she survived a direct hit at home by taking refuge underneath an overturned table which protected her from falling masonry.
Marion joined up in 1943 and was one of the first drafts into the Auxiliary Territorial Services (A.T.S.). Training took place, at first in Wiltshire near Winchester, and later at Arborfield Barracks. As part of administration support for army H.Q. units she saw service in Italy, arriving in Naples a few days after the allied landings. As the front line advanced, she moved north to a station near Florence where she remained until the end of the war. She later saw service in Greece when civil war flared up. She was demobilised in 1947. Marion was very proud of her Italy Star campaign medal.
After the war she returned to London where she rented a large flat in Bayswater. Soon afterwards she met R.A.F. Sergeant Neil Fergusson Kelly (1922-2001) at a party and were married in October 1950.
For the next 40 years, after taking a diploma in social care at St Andrews University, she was involved in social welfare work, especially adoption, and youth and community work. Her early work included orphanages and day clubs for children in Bermondsey that had been badly damaged in the blitz. She also worked with the Women’s Royal Volunteer Service on the very first meals-on-wheels services.
Neil was demobilised from the R.A.F. in 1953. He first found employment with a London engineering company later moving to Silver City’s Airways at Blackbushe Airport. He and Marion bought a bungalow in Nine Mile Ride. They have two sons, Robin (b. 1955) and Ian (b. 1957).
In 1960 Marion took up a position as Resident Warden at Coopers Hill Youth Club in Bracknell and the family moved to the attached quarters. Around this time Neil took a job at an engineering company in Ascot (Polysius) where he worked until his retirement 27 years later.
The family moved to Wokingham in 1964 and Marion took up a position with Oxford Dioceses working on adoption cases. For a number of years she was based in Reading travelling widely in the South East.
Marion was elected Councillor Wescott Ward in 1971. In the Council Chambers she was renowned, if not feared, for her memory for details when doggedly pursuing cases for constituents with the council administration and other agencies. There was no one she wouldn’t write to or talk to in search of a solution. She was described as being a person of fierce principles and integrity who enjoyed moving mountains. During her mayoral term her deputy mayor was John Butcher.
She valued her association with the R.E.M.E. at Arborfield and was instrumental in giving the regiment freedom of the borough. During a two-day visit to the R.E.M.E. in Northern Ireland she was presented with a plaque to commemorate her visit.
Marion was always independently minded. During the 1974 miners’ strike she took food to them and took Scottish miners, who were sleeping on the floor at Reading University Students Union, home for Sunday lunch. As a result she was removed from her beloved youth Committee at the County Council by the Conservative Group. She was rapidly voted back on after being proposed by the leader of the Labour group and seconded by the Liberals.
Outside civic life, Marion and Neil bred, and showed, Cavalier King Charles spaniels. During the late 50s and 60s they competed at Crufts.
After Neil retired in the 1980s he and Marion moved north to Leslie where they lived for several years. However, the severe Scottish winters took their toll and they returned to Wokingham. A month after celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary in 2000 Neil was diagnosed with advanced cancer and he died in Reading.
In the following January. Marion moved to Reading. She died in November 2012.
SourceFormer Town Mayors of Wokingham from 1980 - 2015, by J Bell.
“Marion Fergusson Kelly,” Wokingham's Virtual Museum, accessed August 15, 2020, https://wokingham-tc.gov.uk/museum/document/WTH0074.