Obituary: Son remembers Hampstead ‘ban the bomb’ CND protestor
PUBLISHED: 08:00 05 July 2015
A peace activist who was the first woman to be brought before the courts for protesting in the “ban the bomb” Aldermaston Marches has died aged 81.
Sandra McGowan, who lived in Hampstead for more than 30 years, was a passionate supporter of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) and dedicated a large portion of her life to the organisation as a volunteer.
Her son David McGowan remembered: “CND was very important to her. She was the sort of person who felt everyone was equal. It didn’t matter what you looked like.”
Ms McGowan was born in Canada in 1933 to a wealthy family who made their fortune from paper mills in the 1920s.
She spent her childhood and adolescence in her native country, but moved with her husband, lecturer Bob McGowan, to England in the mid-1950s, initially settling in Edinburgh. In 1956, she gave birth to her first son David.
It was at this time that she became interested in the anti-nuclear movement and signed up as a volunteer with CND, with whom she worked until the 90s.
Mr McGowan, who cared for his mother full-time, said: “She was rebelling against the richness of her parents, so she went the other way politically.”
She took part in the infamous anti-nuclear Aldermaston Marches, joining tens of thousands of people who took to the streets to call for a H-bomb ban.
In her later years, she enjoyed regaling the story of how she became the first women to be called before magistrates at court for her role in the first Aldermaston demonstration.
She continued to march against nuclear weaponry into her old age, often acting as a marshal.
Her home-made brownies and minestrone soup were always in high-demand at protests.
Mr McGowan said: “She was a very kind woman and very generous. She was a real character, and just the best mum in the world.”
Ms McGowan came to Ellerdale Road, Hampstead, in 1968 after divorcing her husband and giving birth to her second son, James.
They lived there for 25 years before moving to Constantine Road.
She struggled to cope with the death of James 10 years ago from pancreatic cancer, and relied on the support of Mr McGowan, who lived with her in Constantine Road in the last years of her life.
She is survived by Mr McGowan.
A funeral will be held at St Dominic’s Priory in Gospel Oak on Monday at 2.30pm.