Baroness Mary Warnock

Baroness Mary Warnock

Baroness Mary Warnock who was the BDA’s President for many years, died on Wednesday at the age of 94. I first met Mary when the BDA held a public debate on whether screening children at age 7 should be made mandatory. She chaired the debate, summarising the issues before the vote, with an incision I had not witnessed anywhere previously.

She was a strong presence, a woman of incredible intelligence yet extremely down to earth with her trademark “call me Mary”. A few years later, we spotted that Mary had come to the Hay Book Festival to present on her book on euthanasia. As we were attending, we went along to the hospitality tent to see if we could assist her in any way. At the same time as her presentation, at another venue, there was a presentation by one of the US Neocons and the police clearly were worried about the threat level. So at the last moment, the audience for Mary’s talk were moved to the venue advertised for the Neocon. Talk by the attendees was that as we were going to a talk on euthanasia, we would be less upset about being blown up!

Despite being in her late 80s, Mary did a wonderful presentation, up on stage in her black and white bomber jacket, and clearly explaining the ethics on assisted dying. She told me later that the British population were not ready for this yet but that it would come as economic pressures of caring for an increasingly old population grew.

Mary died of natural causes at a great age. We will miss her.

- Margaret Malpas, British Dyslexia Association