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National + CULCHETH group

Kath Murphy 1929–2023

Kath Murphy, who has died at the age of 94, was one of the original members of NWR. She was living on the Wirral when Maureen Nicol wrote to the Guardian, suggesting the idea of a register for ‘housebound housewives’ and Kath eagerly responded. She became one of the group of enthusiastic helpers who assisted Maureen, going round to her house to help her to sort out the overwhelming number of letters. These needed to be answered and potential members needed to be introduced to the nearest group or encouraged to form new groups.

Kath was not deterred by the fact that she had three young children at the time. She took them with her, and one of those children reports that Mr Nichol commented on how regularly Kath turned up. Later in the same year the family moved to Culcheth, where she founded the branch that is still thriving. Before her marriage, Kath had been teaching Latin and History, but after the birth of her fourth child she turned to nursery education, becoming the headteacher of a nursery unit and then a college lecturer specialising in child language development.

Although NWR meant a lot to Kath, she was not able to maintain continuous membership. The family moved away from Culcheth for a while and in 1979 her husband, Tim, died suddenly of a heart attack. Widowed at 49, she was the single parent of five children and working full time in a responsible job. In 1990 she was able to return to the Culcheth branch which she had founded thirty years earlier. We celebrated her 80th birthday and then the 50th anniversary of the branch in the same house in which she had organised the first Culcheth meeting, even though it had become the home of a different member.

She remained an active member, joining in outings, meeetings and weekends away. She also enjoyed travelling and her favourite place was Nefn, on the Lleyn peninsula, where she enjoyed swimming in the sea until she was well over 80. She was a devout Catholic and spoke about this when we had an evening on religion. She was interested in everything and everybody and had a great sense of fun and zest for life.

We hoped to celebrate her 90th birthday with her but, increasingly frail, at the age of 89 she needed to move into a care home and returned to Southport, where she had been born. We miss her, and continue to be grateful to her for having been in at the beginning, and for having founded our own branch. After more than 60 years it still provides stimulation and friendship to a group of lively-minded women.

Image shows Kath Murphy and Maureen Nicol at the Golden Opportunities Conference, Warwick 2010