Ann Wigglesworth passed away on 24 September, at Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, after having suffered a series of strokes. Her family and friends were with her through her hospital stay and messages flowed in from around the world to keep her supported.
Born in Wallasey in March 1939 to Cliff and Mary Livesey, Ann attended Oldershaw School, where she was an accomplished student and sportswoman, particularly in swimming; studying Zoology at Cambridge, Girton College, graduating in 1961.
In a gap year before university, Ann worked in refugee camps in Austria for Hungarian people displaced after the Second World War and at the International Peoples’ College, Helsingør, Denmark, established in 1921 by Peter Manniche with the belief that world peace is created through understanding. She also spent some time in France.
In 1959, Ann met Chris Wigglesworth on a train when both were travelling to the Isle of Raasay for a Christian study camp. Through their long marriage, Ann and Chris shared a powerful commitment to social change and creating a more equitable society, along with a deep religious faith.
A dynamic couple, both were deeply involved in local and international causes, and though Chris was the more publicly recognised of the two, he would have been the first to acknowledge Ann’s vital role in their work.
After they married and moved to Huddersfield, in 1962, Ann taught at secondary school until their first child, Judith, was born.
In 1964, they moved to Edinburgh where Ann worked at the Traverse Theatre, hosted international students at the family home and supported Chris as he completed his PhD and embarked on a BD at New College. She was also a full-time mother to three, as daughters Karen and Sara were both born in Edinburgh.
The family moved to India in 1967, with Chris taking up a role with the Church of Scotland, initially to work in water development, and son John was born there. Ann threw herself into her new life – along with home schooling two of their four children, she established a Montessori school in Jalna, Maharashtra, that continues to this day. When the family moved to Bombay, Ann was very active volunteering with Apnalya, a charity that supports slum dwellers with education, health, water, sanitation and the tools to earn a livelihood.
The family moved from India to Aberdeen in 1979. Ann returned to teaching and also established the first Fair Trade shop in the city, in the crypt of St Nicholas’ Kirk right in the heart of the shopping area at the time – bringing fair trade tea, coffee, food, clothing and jewellery products to sit alongside the bigger household brands. Ann’s contribution to the city was recognised with the inaugural “Woman of the Year” award in 1986 for her work in fair trade
Moving back to Edinburgh, as well as teaching at schools including Graysmill School for Special Needs, Ann became heavily involved with Tollcross Community Council. One of the highlights of the year was the Christmas tree lights switch-on with children from the local primary school and the support of businesses in the area. Ann also volunteered with Friends of the Meadows, Asian Women's support network NKS and was an active member of the local Labour Party. After retiring she volunteered with the Citizen’s Advice Bureau for 20 years and most recently became a Trustee of Hadeel, a fair trade social enterprise promoting Palestinian products in the heart of Edinburgh’s central shopping area on George Street.
Holidays were always a fixture in the Wigglesworth calendar, with Ann creating a wonderful atmosphere every year for the children and grandchildren to gather in the Lake District, with lots of long walks in the hills and swimming in tarns.
Ann and Chris travelled extensively, with their last international trips taking in Spain, Turkey, Israel and Palestine. In her final two years, Ann travelled to Aberdeen and London regularly and this summer had a memorable week in the Highlands, catching up with old friends and visiting familiar mountains and beaches.
Ann was a great host who made people feel welcome and supported at the family home. As a member of St Giles’ she was known for welcoming international visitors and new members warmly, building many friendships. Her sociable nature made the restrictions of Covid difficult for her to live through, especially having lost her much-loved husband, Chris, at the beginning of the pandemic in April 2020.
Ann was a social campaigner, creative spirit and bundle of energy. A keen potter, painter, and voracious reader, she also enjoyed theatre, film and music – she was a season ticket holder at the Usher Hall, a regular at the Edinburgh International, Fringe and Book festivals and a lover of art.
She was also a keen gardener, with the Botanic Gardens being one of her favourite spots in Edinburgh, particularly when the magnolia were in bloom.
Her legacy lives on in her children – Judith, Karen, Sara, John – and grandchildren Aslan, Josie, Nurhan, Lucas and Cassia.
Ann Wigglesworth will remain an inspiration to her family and many friends. A service to celebrate her life will be held at 11am on Friday 14 October at St Giles’ Cathedral. All are welcome.
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