27/02/2024
Norwich, GB 4 C
Researching and reporting on the lives of some really interesting people (RIP)

BERYL SKELLY. aged 101

BIRD ALONE

Born in Llanelli, South Wales, her first name was Margaret, but she was always known as Beryl.

She joined the Civil Service after leaving school, and then got a job as a secretary in Wales, before moving to Doncaster.

After the war, Beryl moved to London. It was now that she began to develop her political ideas, becoming a member of the Labour Party.

She applied for a job at Labour Party Headquarters and was appointed as the secretary to Manny Shinwell, who was in the Cabinet in Clement Attlee’s government. He was the Minister who was responsible for the nationalisation of the coal mining industry.

Beryl married John Skelly, a professional singer turned accountant, and they lived in Streatham, South London.

When Labour lost the 1951 General Election, Attlee’s secretary resigned, and the former Prime Minister asked Beryl if she would take up the position. She accepted the job.

She was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Coronation Honours List, “For political services”.

Beryl served Clement Attlee until he retired as  Labour Leader in 1955.

Then, she moved over to serve the next leader of the Labour Party, Hugh Gaitskell. They got on extremely well and had a very close working relationship.

Beryl was devastated by Gaitskell’s sudden death in 1963.

His successor, Harold Wilson, offered her the same position, but she turned him down.

Harold Wilson (courtesy History Today)

Instead, she chose to become the secretary to journalist Hugh Cudlipp, who had just been made Chair of the Mirror Group.

In 1967, Cudlipp was appointed Chair of the IPC publishing group, after the previous chairman, Cecil King, had attempted to bring down Harold Wilson’s government and replace him with Lord Mountbatten – ‘A Very British Coup’.  Beryl joined him at IPC.

In 1974, Cudlipp was made a peer and Beryl went with him, to work at  the House of Lords, until she retired in 1976.

Beryl and her husband John were both keen tennis players and members of the local club in Streatham (Telford Park).

Telford Park (courtesy Facebook_

They owned a yacht called ‘Bird Alone’ and loved cruising the Thames Estuary, often with the Cudlipp family on board.

In retirement, Beryl and John moved to the village of Stourpaine in Dorset and threw themselves into village life. She regularly won prizes for her baking at the village show.

John died in 1996. Beryl lived at home until she was in her late 90s, when she moved into a nursing home in Blandford.

She was still a member of the Labour Party when she died. She had no family left.

Political writer, Harry Bucknall said, “her life was founded on those old-fashioned values of conviction, duty and loyalty.”

RIP – Representing Impressive Politicians

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