Obituary Rosette Irwin: Leading light of Hampstead Conservatives dies aged 96

PUBLISHED: 18:36 05 March 2015 | UPDATED: 18:36 05 March 2015

The late Rosette Irwin, on the campaign trail

The late Rosette Irwin, on the campaign trail


Rosette Irwin became a member of Hampstead Conservatives in the mid-1950s. She was chairwoman of Fitzjohns ward for many years; the association’s president and patron. She never wished to hold public office but thrived on promoting the Conservative cause in Hampstead.

"Through these events she met many of the party luminaries. She didn’t much care for George Osborne, she confided. But she quite liked Jeremy Hunt and was very friendly with the somewhat disgraced councillor Brian Coleman."

Sally Feldman

Rosette De Warza was born in 1918 in Brussels and attended a convent school in Switzerland before going on to university in Brussels to study law.

But that came to an end when war broke out. And it wasn’t long before she found herself working for the underground anti-Nazi movement, helping marooned allied soldiers to escape back to England.

But eventually her cover was blown, and her mother and stepfather disappeared. She never saw them again.

As Belgium was celebrating liberation at the end of the war Rosette met her husband – in Le Zoute, a seaside town where the British army was holding a party.

Bill Irwin, a captain in the Argyll and Sutherland fusiliers, had been in charge of the Danish-Belgian frontier.

Within a week, they were engaged. And after the war they settled in Kingston, near the river. But the marriage wasn’t a happy one, and after 10 years they divorced.

It was after this that Rosette embarked on a new career as a journalist, working for the Belgian news agency Belga.

And it was during this time that Rosette became involved with the local Conservative Party, which was so central to the rest of her life and where she made many friends.

A tireless campaigner and organiser, Rosette developed a real flair for fundraising.

She was renowned for the Blue Rosette dinners she would host, usually at restaurants, as well as for her Sunday tea parties at home.

Dubbed by one friend “The Raffle Queen”, she could always been relied on to make twice as much money as anyone else. Trust Rosette to keep up with the times.

Through these events she met many of the party luminaries.

She didn’t much care for George Osborne, she confided.

But she quite liked Jeremy Hunt and was very friendly with the somewhat disgraced councillor Brian Coleman. And the last dinner she organised, at the Freemasons Arms in Hampstead, complete with auction, was in honour of Ian Duncan-Smith.

Rosette was a formidable, acutely intelligent woman who had no time for sentimentality.

Indeed, towards the end of her life she upset many of her friends by declaring that she was ready to go and wanted to die, suggesting to one that she’d considered jumping out of the window, and asking another if she wouldn’t mind killing her. She got her wish on February 23, when the lungs that had supported her through six decades of heavy smoking finally gave out.

Rosette may have been happy to die, but she leaves a huge gap in the hearts of the many friends who so enjoyed her sardonic humour and her enormous charm.

Rosette Irwin (August 4, 1918 – February 23, 2015) is survived by her cousin Janine Van Ussel, who lives in Belgium.

The funeral will be held on Wednesday, March 18 at 11am at Golders Green Crematorium.

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