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Pamela Powell, devoted wife of fiery unionist MP Enoch, dies at age of 91

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By Laurence White

Pamela Powell, the widow of Enoch, a former MP for South Down and one of the most controversial politicians of the past 50 years, has died at the age of 91.

Powell's infamous 'rivers of blood' speech on immigration in April 1968, which led to his almost instant dismissal from the Conservative's front bench and put an end to any ambitions of high party or government office thereafter, also had a profound effect on Pamela.

Fiercely loyal to her husband in public - any differences of opinion were aired only in the secrecy of their home - she found herself and her husband deserted by former friends who feared for their own political ambitions if seen to be too closely associated with them.

In the immediate aftermath of his speech she genuinely feared for his safety on visits to university campuses where his appearance almost provoked riots. Each evening she would turn on the television to check if any harm had come to him.

Born in Liverpool in 1926, Margaret Pamela Wilson was the daughter of a colonel in the 27 Punjabis, Indian Army, and spent a short time in the subcontinent before returning to England. She turned down the opportunity to go to university, such was her desire to join the war effort and instead trained to be a secretary. In 1944 she joined the War Cabinet Office and the Ministry of Defence, took dictation several times from Winston Churchill, whom she greatly admired, and after the war was posted to New York as part of a UK delegation of the Military Staff Committee of the United Nations.

She met her future husband when she joined the Conservative Party's Parliamentary Secretariat in 1947 - he was at that time a brigadier and liked to point out that he outranked his future father-in-law - although she made him propose twice before accepting. Her first rejection came because she said her father would never allow her to marry a teetotaller.

It is said that Powell promised her after their marriage in 1952 "grinding poverty and a life on the back benches", which was not that far from the truth, if a little exaggerated.

While Powell began his political career - he was the Conservative MP for Wolverhampton South from 1950 to 1974 - Pamela devoted her energies to rearing their daughters Susan, born 1954, and Jennifer, born 1956, and looking after their homes in London and Wolverhampton.

While her husband was regarded as an outstanding intellectual - classical scholar and polyglot - and reached the height of Health Minister, she never felt it likely that one day they would reside in Downing Street. Perhaps she knew best of all his controversial and contrarian nature.

Powell's opposition to the UK's membership of the Common Market led to him leaving the Tories in 1974 and standing in South Down as an Ulster Unionist, who were delighted to welcome someone of his stature and impeccable pro-union credentials into the party at a time when the tide of history seemed to be turning against them. He was also a fierce opponent of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, even going so far as to openly accuse Margaret Thatcher of treachery in signing it.

One of his legacies from his tenure as an MP in Northern Ireland was getting the number of MPs returned up from six to 13, although, ironically, the redrafting of boundaries eventually led to him losing his seat.

Pamela accompanied him to the constituency and once revealed that he was "a wizard" at putting up shelves and hooks around the property.

She was also said to have been undaunted by any dangers posed by the IRA at what was a very dangerous period in the province.

While she was to admit that she wished her husband had not embroiled the family in his many controversies, there is no doubt that their's was a strong marriage. Every year her husband presented her with a new self-written poem and a bunch of roses - containing one flower for every year of marriage.

Pamela, who had endured a lengthy illness, died at her London home where she had been tended to by her daughters.

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