Obituary: My Aunty Margaret

Lindsay Perigo's picture
Submitted by Lindsay Perigo on Mon, 2016-06-20 05:14

It may seem incongruous, if not downright blasphemous, to pay tribute to an avowed communist on an Objectivist/libertarian site, but, ex-communist that I am, I am going to do exactly that.

My aunt Margaret Jones passed away overnight at the age of 96. I pay homage not because of our polar opposite political views but because she was an exemplary human being. She belonged to a species that has now all but died with her: someone prepared to stand up ferociously for what she believed in without giving a damn about the consequences or the opinions of others (whom she routinely described as "boneheads").

This trait ran (runs) in the family, of course. Margaret's father, Leo Sim, was a World War One veteran who converted to Marxism as a result of reflecting on his wartime experiences and an encounter in Ireland with the legendary revolutionary, James Connolly. Her mother, Mary (May) provided tireless back-up both for Leo's proselytising and in raising their five children.

Leo went to jail during the 30s for distributing "seditious" literature. He went on to become General Secretary of the New Zealand Communist Party, in which capacity he spent more than a year in the Soviet Union learning how to be more seditious. Back home, however, he fell out with his comrades over their support for the Hitler-Stalin pact, and was expelled. Never one to let a good excommunication go to waste, he founded his own Bolshevik Party with its own organ, The Spark—whose "seditious" contents promptly got him jailed again. Margaret, meanwhile, notwithstanding her notorious pedigree, was accepted for teacher training and embarked upon her lifelong career. As an educator she was more enamoured of the theories of A. S. Neill as practised at his Summerhill school in England than of the conventional state school orthodoxy of which she was part, but unlike her father never fell cataclysmically foul of The System.

In retirement she continued to do relief teaching for many years, and shared with her libertarian nephew a horror at declining standards, in education in general and of speech in particular. She was vocally supportive of my fledgling quixotic plan to save spoken English from barbarism when I outlined it to her in 2010. (Her husband Neville, who died in 1993, was one of the most beautifully-spoken men one could ever hope to hear.)

Margaret Jones also made a name for herself in the world of organic foods and alternative medicine. Believing that the medical profession were little more than legalised drug pushers who killed more people than they helped, she must have been deeply gratified in her last few weeks to know that she was slipping away because of nothing more than simple unmitigated old age, after a very long, doctor-free life lived in vibrant good health.

Wherever she was, she was the life and soul of whatever it was, often bedecked in outfits that made the word "colourful" a hopeless understatement, as it was of her. When I spoke to her by phone a few days ago and asked if there were many people taking care of her she shot back, "Too bloody many!"

Among her siblings, Margaret was predeceased by her sister Rita and brother Karl (C. F. Goldie, the "Foxton Forger"). She is survived by her sisters Erica ("Peach") and Leomay ("Baba")—my mother—and by her sons Marx (the "Eden Park flour-bomber"), Rhys and Brodie.

Abandoning communism in my twenties, I ceased to share the political beliefs that Margaret retained, while continuing to admire the flair and passion with which she espoused and lived all her values. I'm delighted that she died exactly as she would have wished, peacefully in her sleep, with family keeping watch. No expectation of anything hereafter ("Bullshit!" she would have said), just a tranquil release into infinite oblivion.

There are few people in the world now who know what "socialism" and "capitalism" mean, let alone are capable of debating the merits of either. "Socialism" to moronnials has something to do with Faecesbook, but they're not sure what. And this is part of an even bigger contemporary catastrophe: not just an incapacity to deal in abstractions but complete indifference to any values of any type whatsoever.

Margaret Jones, passionate valuer, was part of a world that has gone ... and was far, far better.


Good soldier

gregster's picture

I appreciate your popping in to say hello. You're a softy obviously Brant, falling for the, in the scheme of things, less important, but humanely personal article here. I hope you're doing OK. I hope all Soloists are doing well.

Your Aunt

Brant Gaede's picture

I salute your aunt and I salute you for saluting your aunt.

A great life well remembered!

mvardoulis's picture

Interesting connection to James Connelly! Ah t'be shoir, t'be shoir.

Great piece. Colourful

Mark Hubbard's picture

Great piece.

Colourful family.

What a lovely tribute

Derek McGovern's picture

What a lovely tribute to a life beautifully lived.

I only met Margaret a couple of times (and her sweetheart of a husband, Neville, once I think), but I vividly remember her fire in the belly and wicked sense of humour. She was a real character!

It's inspiring to think that she made it to 96 with all guns blazing. Brava, Margherita!!

Aunty Margaret....

Olivia's picture

sounds like one of those classic old Battle-axes who colour the world with delightful irreverence.
R.I.P.

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