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Working to improve the quality of life for Gypsies and Travellers

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Obituary - Mrs Maureen Baker MBE

Helen Jones's picture
By Helen Jones |  February 23, 2012 |

Maureen Baker MBE
Maureen Baker MBE with Kim Moloney (left) and Helen Jones in 2004

I was very sad yesterday to receive a call from Maureen’s daughter, Abigail, to let me know that her mother had died on Saturday last.

Please read here how the Yorkshire Evening Post announced the news.

The article can’t describe how Maureen touched the lives of so many people in Leeds, and from where I am sitting, so many Gypsy and Traveller people in Leeds, many of whom might not be even aware of it. I can’t possibly describe that either.

The first time I met Maureen was at a meeting of the Leeds Race Equality Advisory Forum in 2003. Our organisation was applying for membership of the forum. I was scared enough to be in the unfamiliar ‘posh’ council room, with its huge wooden tables. Maureen terrified me. In her imperious style she insisted that I prove that the organisation was truly going to be representative of local Gypsies and Irish Travellers. I somehow managed to satisfy her but didn’t stop shaking for quite a while!

My fear that somehow I would let myself down in front of Maureen gradually subsided during the following months and years as my respect and regard for her grew, although it never truly left me, even the last time I saw her. I wanted to be worthy of her precious attention and support; personally though, not on behalf of Gypsies and Travellers, because they already had that from Maureen.

Over the years Maureen supported Leeds GATE in many ways both large and small. She had a great way of making things simple and ‘do-able’ and importantly for us; she had no fear of taking on the mighty. One of the most significant early pieces of work that Leeds GATE was involved with was the Leeds Baseline Census of Gypsies and Travellers (REC 2005). Maureen grasped the need for data based evidence of the need for our work. She found a grant to pay for the work, helped community members to devise the form, trained them as enumerators, provided ongoing advice and support, analysed the data gathered and wrote the final report. To this day the report remains one of our most important resources.

Maureen was Leeds GATE Chair for a few years, providing the board members with open handed, appreciative support and understanding. She welcomed many of us into her home. We respected her guts and fine intelligence whilst enjoying her occasional delicious wickedness and hilarity.

The current chair and vice chair, Eileen Lowther and Kim Moloney have asked me to express their love and respect for Maureen, sorrow at her loss, and deep condolences to her family.

Please leave tributes and messages below. I will see they are passed on to Maureen’s family.

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