Annie Stewart obituary
My mother, Annie “Nan” Stewart, who has died aged 101, was a teacher, a pacifist, and a committed Quaker.
She was born in Dewsbury during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Her parents, Thomas Fawkes, and his wife, Jane (nee Cornfoot), were millworkers who were frequently unemployed, and Annie was sent to live with an aunt in Dundee when, she later said, she was “skinny, shy, clumsy and just six”. She attended Harris Academy, Dundee, where she excelled; however finances forced her to seek work aged 15.
Passing the civil service exam helped to expand her horizons. She went to work in the post office telephone engineers’ department, which was extending the telephone network. Reading Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth led her to the Peace Pledge Union, and to living in a commune of like-minded souls at the outbreak of the second world war. There she met Alf Stewart, a conscientious objector and Labour party activist. They married in 1943. Social justice and the peace movement were their lodestars.
At the end of the war, Alf’s work as a Labour party organiser took them to South Shields, to Huyton, where Annie was secretary of Labour Women, and finally back to Dundee, where she became among the first few married women who were allowed to become schoolteachers.
She worked in primary schools around Dundee for 25 years, at Blackshade, MacAlpine and finally Powrie primary school until retirement in 1976. Determined to remedy her own curtailed education, in later life she became a proud graduate of the Open University, getting her BA in 1983 at the age of 65.
Annie and Alf were deeply committed to their Quaker meetings in Dundee and St Andrews and forged many lasting Quaker friendships. They loved foreign travel and made campervan expeditions across Europe and the US well into their 70s.
A few years after Alf died, in 2005, Annie moved to North Berwick and transferred to East Lothian Quakers, making new friends there.
She continued doing the Guardian crossword into her 100th year, when fading eyesight put an end to that and, largely, to her beloved reading. To the end, she could still happily recite poetry in Scots, English, French and German, become enraged by the follies of the world’s misguided politicians, and take huge pleasure in her extended family, of five children, 12 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren – whose every birthday she always remembered.
Her eldest son, Malcolm, died in 2014. She is survived by her four other children, Gordon, Sheila, Neil and me, and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
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