Tributes paid to former Hackney mayor Betty Shanks who has died aged 88

Betty Shanks.

Betty Shanks. - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to Betty Shanks, the former Queensbridge councillor and mayor who has died aged 88.

George and Betty Shanks.

George and Betty Shanks. - Credit: Archant

A passionate campaigner for the Dalston area, some of Betty’s best known work included campaigning for the miners during the strikes and her involvement with the Holly Street Estate community centre.

Betty also hit the headlines in 2006 when she squatted in Francesca’s cafe during the Save Broadway Market campaign – and even demanded her mayoral portrait was pulled from the corridors of Hackney Town Hall.

Her son Chris explained one lasting memory of his mother was when she turned up at Kingsland Secondary School – his school – for a mayoral visit.

“All my friends said: ‘It’s must be great for you – your mum is the mayor of Hackney!’. But to me it didn’t seem any different. She was just walking around with a massive gold chain on.”

Betty with firefighters at Kingsland Fire Station.

Betty with firefighters at Kingsland Fire Station. - Credit: Archant

Betty leaves behind five children, 15 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Her husband of more than 50 years, George, died in 2007. Both had served in the army during the Second World War.

“She was very family-orientated and enjoyed doing stuff for local people,” said Chris. “Sometimes you get councillors who don’t necessarily do everything for the people but mum used to fight a lot for the community. I think she became a councillor because she wanted to help people. She was heavily involved in the miner strike, raising funds.”

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Even after leaving her post as a councillor, Betty was heavily involved in community affairs and was a regular contributor to the Gazette’s letters pages.

Then came the Save Broadway Market campaign. Aged 76, Betty protested over the closure of Francesca’s cafe, run for 31 years by Tony Platia. She told the Gazette in 2006 the problems at the market were down to a mass sell-off of land by the cash-strapped council and demanded her portrait be removed.

Betty at the Gazette offices during her year as mayor.

Betty at the Gazette offices during her year as mayor. - Credit: Archant

Hackney Labour spokesperson Cllr Ian Rathbone said: “Betty became mayor at a controversial time with rate capping and handled some stormy council meetings with skill.

“Often passionate about local issues, she was a fierce champion for tenants rights. She was also supportive of the police, particularly in tackling drug activities. Our condolences go to her family.”

Hackney speaker, Cllr Clare Potter, added: “Our thoughts are with her friends and family.”

Betty meets Princess Diana at St Joseph's Hospice.

Betty meets Princess Diana at St Joseph's Hospice. - Credit: Archant