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Veteran Leeds campaigner Ivy Needham dies

Ivy Needham and dog Carmen.

Ivy Needham and dog Carmen.

  • by Joanna Wardill
 

Veteran campaigner Ivy Needham - who was awarded an MBE for leading the fight for the Maxwell pensioners in the 1990s - has died at the age of 88.

The well-known Leeds stalwart, a grandmother-of-four, died at Copper Hill Nursing Home in Hunslet on Thursday,

Mrs Needham spent most of her life championing various causes - most notably for the Maxwell pensioners, when it emerged corrupt publishing tycoon Robert Maxwell had plundered millions of pounds from his employees’ pension funds.

The widow, who was registered blind and deaf, headed the campaign after she was made redundant from Petty’s Printers on Christmas Eve in 1982.

She was so appalled that 85,000 people were facing the future without a pension, she embarked on a fight for justice which saw her lobby MPs such as Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Ann Widdecombe who, in her autobiography ‘Strictly Ann’, described Mrs Needham as the “face of the Maxwell Pensioners”, and said she was “ten times as effective as any trade union leader because she spoke from the heart without losing her head”.

Mrs Needham’s fight also took her to the European Parliament in Brussels and the House of Commons where she handcuffed herself to railings. In 1996, after she had also been crowned Yorkshirewoman of the Year, she was awarded an MBE at the Palace.

Her daughter, Wendy Fletcher, 64, said: “It was just incredible what she did. She got some of the pensions back. Sadly a lot of the pensioners had died by then and never had their pensions. But obviously a lot did, and that was because of mum. I think she was proud of herself. We are all certainly proud of her - what she did and how many people she helped. She wasn’t going to stand back.”

And Ivy’s campaigning did not stop there. The following years saw her take up causes including the firefighters’ strike in 1992, when she regularly stood on the picket line at Hunslet, keeping up a supply of fish and chips; fighting charges to pensioners for home help in 2003; battling proposed day centre closures in 2009 and raising more than £4,000 for Help for Heroes for injured soldiers from the war in Afghanistan. Mrs Fletcher added: “She fought for everything. She did so much.”

Mrs Needham also leaves son Kingsley, 57. Her funeral will be on Friday January 3 at 3pm at Cottingley Crematorium.

 

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