Unveiling of Edith Garrud’s plaque in London

Edith Garrud’s great-great-great-grandniece and namesake poses with a replica of the plaque commemorating her ancestor, and with her toy octopus friend.

On a sunny Saturday in June 2012, around 70 people congregated around the steps of a house in a smart square in London to celebrate the life of a brave woman who had once lived there; Edith Margaret Garrud, the jujitsu trainer of the Bodyguard corps of the British Suffragette movement circa 1910-1913. Two of the people present had known Edith Garrud; her grand daughters Jenny Cooper and Sybil Evans. To them, she was just Nana.

There was a group of about fifteen members of the Garrud family, many of them from Sheffield in the North of England who had travelled 200 miles to be present at the unveiling of the relative none of them had met. They said they were inspired by her courage and wanted to be part of the ceremony. I met people from one of the London Judo societies and several women proud of their Suffragette predecessors who had helped women to take their place in today’s society. A young boxing enthusiast was clear that Edith and her companions had made it possible for her to be accepted as a boxer today.

As the appointed time for the unveiling approached, the photographer
marshalled groups of family supporters, descendents and others into groups to record the event for the local newspaper and to make pictures for a permanent display of the achievements of Islington people. Although too little to understand much of what was happening today, young Edie will surely grow up to be proud of the ancestor whose name she carries.

At last the photographs were over and the crowd gathered round under the green veil which covered the plaque to listen to a short speech from the Leader of Islington Council. She spoke a little about the Suffragette movement and the equality they sought. She reminded us that the council is trying to promote encourage equality today, between the residents on the west side of Caledonian Road who live on £10,000 a year and those so near on the east side such as the area of Thornhill Square where houses may sell for £2 million. She thanked local Councillors for attending this celebration, and then asked one of the relatives to say a few words. As this was unexpected, I managed only to thank Tony Wolf who started all of this and Islington Council for all of their efforts with the Plaque, and then turned back to the Leader to unveil the Plaque.

There were more photographs, the green baize curtains revealed the Plaque, and after a round of applause most people moved across the road to St Andrews church to enjoy cups of tea and cakes and a good opportunity to find out who else had come to the celebration. Around the walls of the church room there were panels prepared by Islington illustrating the Suffragette movement, there was also a large copy of the Punch cartoon and a family tree showing where Edith fitted into the Williams/Garrud/Jones/Deamer families. After an hour or so of meeting new friends and distant relatives people began to drift away for some long journeys home. I walked with two members of the Jones family whom I had met first 25 years ago and not seen since, and with a few more fond farewells the party was over.

We went home remembering something of Edith’s life and proud of her achievements and our association with her.

Thanks to Martin Williams, a descendent of Edith Garrud’s, for both organising the commemorative plaque project and for writing this guest post.

4 thoughts on “Unveiling of Edith Garrud’s plaque in London”

  1. Thank you to my cousin, Martin Williams, for alerting the family members of the possibility of Auntie Edie being awarded the Islington peoples award, and to Tony Wolf, for informing the Bartitsu world of a lady pioneer of the martial arts, and encouraging them to vote for her. She had some formidable competition, so I think we all did a good job.

    I met Auntie Edie very infrequently, but I have a very clear memory of her when, in 1953, my family stayed at her home so we could go to camp out on the Mall to be in a good position to watch the Coronation parade the next morning, leaving my 5 year old sister with Edie and her many family members and visitors, who watched the Coronation on a tiny black and white TV.

    The coronation of Queen Elizabeth was an incredibly important event. Edie felt obliged to do her part by putting in a new garden path, leading up to her front door, which she did herself, including mixing the cement.

    My sister told us that Edie, to be sure of a colourful show of flowers, had planted plastic ones in her garden.

    I was very tired after a night and most of the day on the Mall, but after supper she spent a lot of time telling me about the time she was a bodyguard to the Suffragettes and teaching jujutsu to other ladies, and later on doing shows with Indian Clubs. I am a bit hazy on that, but the thing I never forgot was the Punch cartoon she showed me, of her, surrounded by policemen and one saying to the other, “You get her”.

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