South London Memories: Out of Africa, but Margaret never lost her love for it…

Margaret was born in 1934 in Southern Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe. Her family had lived in Southern Rhodesia for several generations, and she grew up with a love of wildlife and the outdoors, often accompanying her beloved father Alan (Redfern) on his safaris into the African bush.

Margaret loved telling the story about her grandfather Arthur and her father, who in 1935 while on a safari, shot a lion.

They realised it was wounded and had to be put out of its misery. It took some time to track it down but when finally located, it surprised them with a sudden attack on Arthur, pinning him down.

Alan saved his father’s life by shooting the lion in the neck, but Arthur sustained serious injuries and it took two days’ arduous driving before the two men reached civilisation and medical help.

Arthur vowed never to hunt a wild animal again. Instead he used his tracking skills to good use by taking images of animals at close quarters, becoming one of the country’s leading wildlife photographers.

He subsequently founded Rhodesia’s Wildlife Preservation Society.

Such stories gave Margaret a deep love of all animals and she expressed a wish that anyone who knew her would contribute to an animal charity.

The family chose The Aware Trust, an animal conservation society based in Bulawayo, the town where she was born.

Margaret’s young life was marred by tragedy when her father was killed in action during the Second World War.

She was just nine years old and living in South Africa with her mother and younger brother at the time. After the war they moved back to Rhodesia.

Margaret married and had two sons, Wesley and Berni. However, she became increasingly disenchanted with the political and racial inequality of Southern Rhodesia.

When Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) was declared in 1965, the family felt compelled to move to the UK.

Married life was not easy, and in time Margaret broke free and established her independence, enjoying the freedom of her own studio flat in Chiswick.

In 1990 she was able to join her son, Berni, his partner, Laura, and their son, Jake, in the home they had transformed from a wreck in Datchelor Place, Camberwell.

Margaret became a focal point for the family, and embraced her new home, immersing herself in Camberwell life.

Alongside her personal life, Margaret’s journalistic career was impressive. Her first role in the UK as Press Secretary for the British Oxygen Company (BOC) led to a course in periodical journalism, following which she edited BOC group’s staff newsletter.

In 1983 she became assistant editor of Tempo, the staff newspaper for the Department of Employment.

Her duties included briefing the press and producing a daily summary of newspaper news for ministers and senior officials.

In 1985 Margaret moved to Singapore and contributed her skills as a volunteer for the British Association of Singapore.

This involved work on several committees and editorship of its magazine for the expatriate community.

Returning to London in 1988, Margaret became editor of The Negotiator and The Interviewer, two bi-weekly trade magazines.

The following year she moved to the Incorporated Society of Valuers and Auctioneers (ISVA) as editor of The Valuer, a colour publication for property professionals.

One of Margaret’s key achievements was a complete re-design of The Valuer, a huge undertaking for which she had to learn new IT skills.

Mary Kate O’Reilly, who worked with Margaret at ISVA and developed a close friendship with her over several years, recounts how she gave her the opportunity to work on The Valuer and therefore a route into journalism.

During the interview for the job, she was somewhat taken aback when Margaret asked if she minded about swearing in the office.

Margaret explained by admitting that this happened a lot, especially when she was faced with the deadline of going to press.

So the Camberwell Society was extremely fortunate when, with all her editorial skills and experience, Margaret was willing to take over the editorship of The Camberwell Quarterly a decade ago.

Founded in the 1970s it has now run to more than 200 issues. As editor, Margaret was adept in attracting articles of high quality and interest from contributors.

She always displayed consummate tact and discretion with authors when editing their submitted articles, and she maintained a firm control over the editorial process, even when faced with the inevitable deadline issues prior to publication.

Margaret was also a member of the executive committee of the Camberwell Society, where her wisdom and common sense were greatly valued.

Producing the journal gave Margaret absolute pleasure and she made some truly great friends.

She loved being part of Camberwell itself, from its gossip, to the farmer’s market, to celebrating important events at Caravaggio’s Italian restaurant.

Whenever you walked down the street alongside Margaret, everyone seemed to know her. With her characteristic dignity and poise, whenever people greeted her, she would turn, greet them and smile.

When she shopped at Morrisons she would go to Linda’s checkout and they would chat about their day.
Visiting Margaret during her final weeks in hospital and then at home, she was always patient and accepting of her ill-health.

She said time and again how wonderful her family were, looking after her so well.

She felt very loved. She was bored by inactivity and keen to hear news and gossip.

Being in no pain, she told me that she wished to slip away peacefully after a complete life. Her wish was granted. St. Giles Church was full on Tuesday, October 8 for Margaret’s funeral: a testimony to the widespread affection and respect in which she was held. She will be greatly missed.

Nicholas Roskill, October 2019 Her great-niece Kristen added: “Once when we were watching the evening news in her living room, I remember Margaret telling me how much she loved living in London.

She called it the greatest city in the world – a global centre around which everything happens. While she never lost her connection with Southern Africa, I admired how she was a true citizen of the world: news-hungry and au fait with current affairs, even in her very last days.”

One of her friends, Mary Kate O’Reilly, a freelance editor and journalist, said: “Despite some resistance from those around her, she gave me the best chance anyone has ever given me and offered me the job.
It was conditional on my attending evening classes at the London School of Journalism, something I was more than happy to do to get my dream job.

I do remember one of Margaret’s questions at interview seemed rather odd. She asked, “Mary Kate, do you mind swearing in the office?” I was tempted to answer, “What, now?” but instead I just looked rather puzzled, until she said, “It’s just that I swear rather a lot, especially when we’re about to go to press – you just need to know that.”

And yes, she did, but in her lovely posh accent it never offended.

She was a brilliant teacher and mentor, we had lots of fun and she always encouraged me to attend the glamorous events at work, saying she’d been there and done that.”

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