Olive Horrocks, a wartime fire-watcher and later a tenant activist who became the “Lady of Lissenden”, has passed away, aged 94.
She lived for almost her entire life within the same square mile of Dartmouth Park.
Born in Boscastle Road in 1915 to Arthur and Marie, Olive moved into Lissenden Gardens in 1948 – and became a much-loved matriarchal figure in the neighbourhood.
Her father was an entrepreneur specialising in the sale of upper class gentleman’s grooming equipment and was very proud of his daughter becoming the first of her family to go to university.
As a teen, Olive won a scholarship at North London Collegiate and then studied English at King’s College, London.
She met her husband Eric at college and her time studying sparked a life-long interest in politics and the Labour Party.
Olive and Eric were married in 1936 in St Anne’s Church, Highgate West Hill – she told friends it was “madness” to marry aged just 21, but it proved to be an enduring love.
Olive trained as a teacher and when war broke out, she volunteered as a fire-watcher and then joined the civil service – she had the painful task of assessing claims for war damage to properties.
Eric and Olive had two children, Katharine and Graham. Olive went on to teach at the North West London Polytechnic in Prince of Wales Road.
She will be remembered for being a first-class neighbour. Olive was a founding member of the Lissenden Gardens Tenants Association and was instrumental in the battle to keep it out of the hands of property speculators in the 1960s and 70s.
She later to became secretary of the association and was renowned for her bright wit, her brilliance at getting people involved and her encyclopaedic knowledge of issues.
She had a great love of theatre and the arts, could be found walking up to Waterlow Park to meet her sister Margaret for a coffee and a gossip, and was thrilled by the arrival of four grandchildren.
Her independence lasted until her final days. Olive fell ill at Easter but recovered and returned home for her final months. Although slightly more frail, she was still the “Lady of Lissenden”, always ready to offer a cup of tea and find time for a chat.
The reaction in Lissenden Gardens to Olive’s passing has been one of shock: St John Wright, a neighbour who Olive teased by telling him she could remember him as a baby in a pram, said people considered her to be a permanent feature of life in the red-brick estate that nestles in the bottom corner of Parliament Hill Fields.
He said: “She was more than a neighbour – Olive was a friend, a counsellor and a mentor to everyone here. She was a wise, kind, intelligent and knowledgeable woman. I, like so many others, cannot really imagine Lissenden without Olive.”
Geoffrey Morris, who knew her for more than 20 years, recalled a friend who was generous with her talents.
He said: “Olive was someone I instantly took a liking to.
“She had a beautiful way about her, a way of listening, a sense of English decency and inclusiveness.”
From The Camden New Journal