Obituary: Madge Eccles

A stalwart of the Co-op Women’s Guild, the retail movement and the Labour Party

Co-operators in Derby are mourning the loss of one of their longest serving and most dedicated members, Madge Eccles, who passed away at the start of the new year at the age of 92.

Her long-time friend Elaine Dean, vice-president of Central England Society and vice chair of Co-op Press, said: “I’ve known Madge as far back as I can remember as she worked with my father and, despite being widowed at a young age, she never gave up on life. If there was a committee, an event, a group, a Congress, a party – anything – Madge was there.”

She was first elected to the Derby board of the former East Midlands Society in the 1980s as an employee representative and due to absences / unavailability she made it to the Central Board for the very meeting where the then CEO Gilbert Highet was sacked.

“When questioned as to what happened, Madge produced a notebook and read out to the meeting every word that had been spoken and by whom. Amazing. She became an overnight legend!” said Ms Dean.

Madge Eccles

“After retirement from the sports and toys department of the Derby department store, she returned to the board as a lay member and remained until she was 70. We had a huge party for her 70th in Derby – which I remember as it was the 1998 World Cup, and a then almost unknown Croatia side beat Germany that night. Derby County had two players in the Croatian team – so the pub where the party was held absolutely rocked. Madge loved it.”

Madge was a stalwart of the Co-op Women’s Guild and kept the Derby Central branch going until the guilds folded in 2015 but still tried to hold meetings for friendship’s sake. She was also on the local Usdaw Committee for many years and on the local Labour Party Women’s Council from Mackworth ward where she was an ever-present member.

Ms Dean added: “She attended all the Derby Area Retired Employee events – the last time in December 2019 – but she was ill for the pre-lockdown spring party in March last year. She has been quite ill for the last nine months and in and out of hospital. My husband Peter, chair of the REA, spoke to her a few weeks ago and she was very frail.

“Madge always looked immaculate, she took huge pride in her appearance and was a kind, good and perpetually cheerful woman. It feels like the end of an era. RIP Madge, a life well lived.”