Lady Shirley Hooson: An obituary

Credit: Powys County Times

Montgomeryshire and the Welsh Liberal tradition will not see her like again

‘The end of an era’ is without doubt an over-used phrase when assessing much loved and respected figures who have died, but when Jane Dodds and I took our places in the China Street Welsh Presbyterian Chapel last Saturday, 5th May to celebrate the life of Shirley Hoosen (nee Hamer), that is precisely what we were witnessing.

Lady Shirley Hooson was the widow of the late Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire, Lord Emlyn Hooson, who served the county for 17 years between 1962 and 1979.

She dedicated most of her adult life to the service of her native Llanidloes, serving as a member of the Llanidloes Town Council for more than four decades, from 1974 to 2017, including a term as mayor. She stood down from the council just a few weeks after her 90th birthday, becoming an Honorary Alderman of the town, in recognition of her long and loyal service in June 2017.

Lady Shirley was also a longstanding member of Montgomeryshire District Council for Llanidloes from its inception in 1973 until its absorption into the Powys Unitary Authority in 1996, serving as Vice Chair of the Council. The demise of Montgomeryshire District Council was a matter of bitter regret to her, only surpassed by the threat of abolishing the historic parliamentary seat of Montgomeryshire, currently being promoted by the Boundary Commission.

Glyn Davies, Conservative MP for Montgomeryshire since 2010, was amongst those to pay tribute to Lady Hooson:

Lady Hooson and her great late husband, Emlyn, were wonderful people who gave much of their lives to Llanidloes and Montgomeryshire…She was a key support to him throughout his hugely successful political career. Over the last three years, after she had lost the ability to speak, I valued meeting her more than ever. We simply did not need words to communicate. Llanidloes and Montgomeryshire has lost one of its greatest ever champions.

Former Liberal MP for Montgomeryshire, Lord Alex Carlile of Berriew, was close to both Lord and Lady Hooson. He said:

I knew her for many, many years. She was a Montgomeryshire person through and through. Her heart had Llanidloes written all over it. She was an extraordinary public servant, councillor and mayor. She made a great contribution to the legal profession with Lord Hooson at his Chambers in Chester, which I later joined. It is legendary the way they built his practice, which led him to become the best QC Wales has ever known.

In her later years, she was affected by illness. She will be greatly missed by me, personally. When I was an MP for Montgomeryshire, she would give advice and knowledge, robust and engaging, and the results were always beneficial to me.

Lord Carlile’s successor as MP, Lembit Opik, echoed his sentiments:

Lady Hooson was the rock on which Lord Hooson’s life was built. He loved her absolutely and she was the power behind Emlyn. I have no doubt that when he passed on that would have been a devastating blow.

She was the perfect complement to Emlyn’s parliamentary and legal career and she chose her battles and public service and did both with great dignity and intelligence. She always put the public first and she could have been an MP if she had chosen to but she chose a different path.

Powys County Councillor Gareth Morgan, Welsh Liberal Democrat member for Llanidloes, and her friend of over 50 years, gave an emotional eulogy at her funeral:

Lady Hooson was without doubt Llanidloes’ most distinguished citizen. She cared for her electorate with commitment and passion and earned their unfailing support and admiration. Her passing leaves a large gap in public life in Montgomeryshire. “Llani’ will never be the same without her.

As Welsh Liberal Democrat Assembly Member for Mid and West Wales, between 2011 and 2016, I too had come to know, appreciate and respect Lady Shirley in her later years.

I first met Lady Shirley when she accompanied Lord Hooson over many years at the annual Lloyd George Society Weekend School. She was always ready with a question or comment and loved the opportunity to catch up with old friends and make new ones. She was also a rock to her late husband, in a firm but discreet way, enabling him to enjoy proceedings.

When I first visited Lord and Lady Hooson at their home, Summerfield Park, accompanied by their close friend, Cllr Gareth Morgan, Lady Hooson was the perfect hostess, offering hospitality and wise counsel, given her many years of public service in Llanidloes and Montgomeryshire.

While she is now at rest, after some years of ill health, her passing is truly the end of an era. Montgomeryshire and the Welsh Liberal tradition will not see her like again. Our sincere condolences go to her daughters Sioned and Lowri and the extended family.’

The photo shows Mayor of Llanidloes Cllr Janet Crisp making Lady Shirley Hooson an Honorary Alderman of the two. 


* Cllr William Powell is President of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

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  • Roger Roberts 11th May '18 - 1:10pm

    Emlyn and Shirley were a partnership of which Wales, Montgomeryshire and Parliament can be proud.Much could be said but I first saw Shirley at the 1951 General Election when Emlyn was Liberal candidate for Conwy. It was on the platform of Conwy Town Hall at what must have been one of the first “outings” together upholding the Liberal banner. One of the last meetings was a Welsh Lib Dem tea on the terrace of the House of Lords well over 60 years later ! Thank you Shirley for your faithfulness to our cause over all those years. Diolch Shirley.

  • An excellent piece, Bill.

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