Obituary: 'Striking and beautiful' north London mother Mary Collins
Michelle Collins, Actor
- Credit: Collins family
Proud north Londoner and mother of two Mary Collins has died aged 80.
Having been diagnosed with cancer, she received amazing treatment and care from the Royal Free and the Whittington hospitals, and died on April 30.
One of five siblings, Mary Josephine Collins, née Horton, was born in Pontypridd, Wales on December 23, 1940, before her family moved to Southall, in Middlesex.
Her parents died when she was just 10 years old and Mary became a mother to her siblings. She was incredibly bright, excelling at school but through various circumstances never went on to further her education.
She came to north London in the early '60s and had two girls, Victoria and me, born in 1961 and 1962.
Vicki was born in Victoria and I was born in Homerton Hospital, Hackney.
We lived in Highbury for the first few years, opposite Arsenal's Highbury football ground, which of course made us lifelong fans.
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Vicky and I attended the Gillespie Infants School at first but later moved to Holloway where they attended Yerbury Primary School. I went on to Highbury Hill and Vicki to Parliament Hill.
Mary loved Islington and took the kids every weekend to Chapel Market, where she knew everyone. She would also take us to the fair on Hampstead Heath, to ride the donkeys on White stone pond and to feed the deer in Golders hill park.
She loved taking us to sit outside The Holly Bush pub, The Flask, and The Spaniards inn, in particular, to see the birds in the aviary.
Mary was a very beautiful, striking woman, 5 ft 9 with vibrant red hair and always dressed with great style. You couldn’t miss her! She would never go out without having her hair done and was particularly proud to visit the fashionable Crimpers Salon. Even when she wasn't getting up to much towards the end, she would still have her beloved John around to do her hair.
She would often take her girls out to the Italian restaurant in Highbury Corner, ordering one plate of food and two small ones so that we didn't miss out.
Life was certainly never boring in the Collins household. Mary had lots of friends, who would often pile into her little Mini Traveller and drive to Selsey Bill, Bracklesham Bay and even as far as Cornwall.
It was tough bringing up two kids as a single parent, and Mary kept many jobs just to keep the family afloat, before deciding she would go into further education. She achieved a BA honours degree in Law, passing with flying colours. She then became a housing officer for Islington Council running the Wenlock estate, a job she truly loved.
She always instilled in her family the importance of education. She was a ferocious reader and was obsessed not just with books but with newspapers. She would spend endless hours reading them all and even at the end she had to have her beloved Islington Gazette and Ham&High close by. She never really got social media, so papers were her lifeline.
She later moved to River Street, Islington, off Amwell Street. She absolutely loved living there and being part of the local community, often helping out in the local church. She really was a pillar of the community.
She spent a lot of time in Highgate Village looking after her granddaughter Maia who attended Channing, regularly mingling with all the mums in the playground. She was very proud of all her grandchildren: Charlotte, Maia and Jack.
Mary enjoyed travelling, particularly to La Carihuela, in Spain, and was very proud to have travelled on the Queen Mary to New York. She was a vivacious, funny and extremely sociable woman always making new friends easily. You would never forget her, she was the kindest most generous woman who always fought for the underdog and hated injustice.
She spent the last seven years of her life in East Finchley, where she was loved by all the community. She loved frequenting the local charity shops, her trusty rescue dog Nano (All Dogs Matter) by her side.
Mary was diagnosed with terminal skin cancer a few years ago and was so grateful to be put on a trial at the Royal Free Hospital.
She leaves behind her partner Sid – whom she met in 1978 and with whom she spent the rest of her life – daughters Vicki and Michelle; and grandchildren Charlotte, Jack and Maia.
She will be sadly missed by us and all who knew her.