Obituary: Jess Rogan, 95

Jess Rogan. Picture: comp
Jess Rogan. Picture: comp
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FORMER Labour councillor Jess Rogan has died at the age of 95.

Jess Rogan was a Labour member of the former Lothian Regional Council during a period in which the local authority became embroiled in a long-running battle with the Conservative government over spending cuts.

Already active in the Labour Party, she was elected regional councillor for the Edinburgh division of Alnwickhill/Kaimes in 1978 and immediately joined committees responsible for education, social work, recreation and leisure.

A strong defender of public services, Jess supported her Labour leadership overall though she was always a free thinker. She stood against them on the recreation and leisure committee when she championed the development of sailing facilities and marina at Port Edgar, and played a leading role in saving the Playhouse Theatre from threatened closure by setting up the Playhouse Trust.

Born on the south side of the city, she was one of a family of ten children. Poverty forced her to leave school at 14 and start work, first at a local paper and print works and then at a souvenir shop on Princes Street.

When the Second World War started she joined the Women’s’ Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF), leaving with the rank of corporal after almost five years’ service. She was a WAAF driver and drove everything from cars, buses and ambulances to two-ton trucks.

A big part of her enjoyment of wartime was being a dancer, singer, and entertainer at camp shows. Like all her sisters she had a good voice, was a great dancer and loved a good party. She carried that through until her 90th birthday, leading a chorus of Stardust with the family.

It wasn’t long after she was demobbed from the WAAF that Jess met Pat. They were married in 1946. Also deeply committed to the ideals of the Labour Party, Pat went on to become a leading councillor in the then Edinburgh Town Council.

When the couple divorced in 1973, Jess sold the dress shop she had set up in the city’s Prestonfield area and went to work for the classified advertising department of The Scotsman Publications.

Never content only to do one job when she could do two, she also soon became Mother of the Chapel for her trade union and organised the women she worked with into a formidable unit, often taking on the somewhat entrenched views of the men working in the print room.

Her interest in politics and involvement in the Labour Party, which she had joined in 1947, led to her decision to stand for Lothian Regional Council.

When Jess finally retired, she turned her hand to writing poetry and short stories, to drawing and painting, and to travelling to the US and Australia to visit daughter Pauline and son Brendan.

She also took up golf, continuing to play until she was 85.