Phyllis Herriot always fought for her beliefs

Phyllis Herriot's efforts were rewarded with an MBE in 2009. Picture: Dan Phillips
Phyllis Herriot's efforts were rewarded with an MBE in 2009. Picture: Dan Phillips
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PHYLLIS Herriot, former Labour councillor, leader of Lothian Regional Council and tireless campaigner, has died aged 89.

Phyllis Herriot was born Phyllis Taylor on April 5, 1926, in East Thomas Street, Leith, the youngest daughter of former Lancashire Fusilier James Taylor and his wife Mary Ann. She went to Leith Walk School, before going on to the old Broughton Secondary, at the foot of McDonald Road. After leaving school, Phyllis took a job at W&AK Johnston Printers on Easter Road, printing Royal Ordinance maps and Bank of Scotland banknotes, before moving on to JF MacFarlan Pharmacy at Abbeyhill just before the Second World War broke out.

Phyllis had hoped to join the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) or the Wrens (Women’s Royal Naval Service) and see active service during the war, but her job at the pharmacy was a reserved profession because they made dressings and medications for the hospitals.

Sadly, she lost her brother Norman in the war. He was one of around 800 men killed on the Lisbon Maru prisoner-of-war transport ship in the waters surrounding Hong Kong.

Phyllis met her husband Archie during the war and they were married in 1949. They settled in Wolseley Place, Willowbrae, and in 1956 she began a 30-year career as a saleswoman at the Gas Board shop on George Street.

In 1967, Phyllis was elected to the old Edinburgh Corporation as Labour councillor for Craigentinny, having nearly succeeded in an earlier attempt to win a seat in Portobello from a right-wing Progressive councillor.

She continued to represent Craigentinny on Lothian Regional Council, where she served as chair of the social work committee and then leader of the ruling Labour group in 1979. Lothian Region soon found itself at loggerheads with the new Conservative government, led by Margaret Thatcher, which was intent on curbing rate increases. Phyllis was at the centre of the battle along with colleagues like John Mulvey, Paul Nolan and Eric Milligan.

But her husband Archie died in 1981 and Phyllis had a spell of illness herself and decided to stand down at the 1982 council elections.

After a break of about a year, she was back – campaigning against health cuts, taking her place as a director of Lothian Buses and playing a leading part in the Scottish Old Age Pensions Association and the Scottish Pensioners Forum.

Phyllis was also a staunch Hibs supporter, campaigned to save Meadowbank Stadium, chaired Craigentinny Tenants Association, Craigentinny Community Centre, Lochend Neighbourhood Centre and was a member of Craigentinny Community Council.

Her tireless work saw her honoured with the Lothian Award, Citizen of the Year Award and an MBE in the 2009 Queen’s birthday honours list.