Liberal legend Ruth Coleman-Taylor has died

Ruth Coleman-Taylor has been a friend to many generations of Liberals and Liberal Democrats – and to many generations of members of liberal parties across the world.

Many readers of this site will be very sad to hear that Ruth died on Wednesday in hospital in Greece, where she was moving with her husband Mick.

Ruth was one of the kindest, wisest people and I feel very lucky to have known her. I first met her back in 1992 at a Women Liberal Democrats (as it then was) AGM in Bath. Her daughter, Rachel was telling us about her experience at an international young person’s space school.

I loved spending time with her and Mick at every Conference. She gave excellent advice and was incredibly good at disagreeing well. She was a radical liberal and committed internationalist. She was as livid as many of us were about Brexit and its false promises.

She and Mick had the spirit, fearlessness and the drive to head off for a year’s travelling around the world in their 70s. While we missed them when they were away we couldn’t wait to hear about their adventures when they came back.

Ruth was Mayor of Todmorden when it was featured in the Sunday Times list of Best Places to live last year. Her comments to the Halifax Courier summed up the sorts of things she thought were important in a community:

Todmorden is not just a place, it’s a community. People are friendly but also they care: so many local people and organisations have been helping the vulnerable during the Covid pandemic as they do when floods strike.

We have the market, the butchers and shops like Tod Almighty providing delicious local food, and good places to eat out that have cleverly become takeaways for the moment. Good transport links, too, for work or tourism.

Above all, wherever you are in Todmorden, when you look up you can see the beautiful countryside that surrounds us, so near, so accessible.

We will do a more detailed obituary covering Ruth’s more than half century of liberal activism later, but this is a space for us to share memories of a truly brilliant, compassionate, radical internationalist liberal and a fantastic friend.

The picture above was taken in the Goat and Tricycle in Bournemouth at my Birthday Drinks back in 2017.  Conference will not be the same without her.

Ruth wrote a couple of articles for this site and we’ll rerun them over the next few days. They are worth reading and taking note of today.

I and all the team send our love and sympathy to Mick and all of Ruth’s family.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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14 Comments

  • Ruth was an amazing person and a light in the lives of everybody she knew.

    I’m not going to write an essay here because that would feel crass, but she will be missed.

  • Alan Sherwell 16th Jul '22 - 8:23pm

    Ruth was one of my oldest friends in the Party – I met her around 1970. There is so much that I could say but her range is perhaps the most striking thing. Very active in international polities and, as mentioned above, Mayor of Todmorden but also Leader of Wiltshire County Council. Her then husband, Patrick, was leader of their District Council which led to a memorable comment in full Council “Yes, I discussed that in bed with their leader last night”. She will be missed

  • Ruth and I knew each other at York University, although we lost touch afterwards. So it was a pleasant surprise to bump into her again years later at a reunion and realise that she was the person I had been getting to know at Lib Dem Conferences. She was such a positive can-do sort of person – what a loss. Huge sympathies to Mick.

  • Patrick Coleman 16th Jul '22 - 9:32pm

    Thank you everyone for your lovely memories of Ruth. (Alan, it was t’other way round – I was on County while Ruth led District – obviously not important right now). Caron thank you for this piece.

  • Well remember working with her and her husband when we were in the Wigan party together, the early 80’s. I moved to the Midlands about the same time she was expecting her first child. She was a gem.
    PS in 1983 Liberal Alliance came second in Wigan with over 30% of the vote and an excellent third with 22% in neighbouring Ashton in Makerfield.
    Oh happy days!!! Will we see their like again?.

  • Gwyn Williams 17th Jul '22 - 9:54am

    I first met Ruth through the LGA. It was one of those happy coincidences as her mother was a staunch Liberal in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. If in 1996 the Party had selected her in Montgomeryshire rather than Opik, not only would she have held the seat in 97, it would not have slipped out of Lib Dem hands in 2010.

  • Very sad new. Condolences to Mick and all her family.

  • Angie Harris 17th Jul '22 - 12:35pm

    So very sorry to hear this news. Last saw Ruth (and Mick) at David Shutt’s Memorial service a few months ago and she was on good form – as always. I have known her for most of my political lifetime and her encouragement and friendship was so much appreciated. She will be sorely missed in our Yorkshire and Humber region.

  • Rif Winfield 17th Jul '22 - 2:05pm

    Very sad news, and sincere commiserations to Mick and the rest of her family. I have many good memories from the 1970s of Ruth as a brilliant leader of NLYL, and arguing the radical case against more ‘moderate’ members of the Party.

  • Catherine Crosland 17th Jul '22 - 8:37pm

    I’m so very sorry to hear this sad news. Ruth was a lovely, inspirational person, who will be so much missed. Deepest sympathy to Mick, and to all the family

  • Keith House 18th Jul '22 - 9:30pm

    My recollections of Ruth are mainly from the 1990s and the LGA. Always worth listening to. I groaned when I read this news at the weekend. We’re losing so many great liberals from that era.

  • What Keith said. I’m really sorry to read this – hopefully someone could pass on my condolences to Mick and her family.

  • David Evans 20th Jul '22 - 5:37pm

    A good lady and a great Liberal and Liberal Democrat. Fond memories and heartfelt condolences to Mick and all the family.

  • Oh this is such sad news. We were neighbours for a number of years. To some she perhaps appeared a somewhat quiet eccentric but like any performer she came alive during her speeches where her articulate brilliance shone out. I remember how she hid her disappointment in missing out to Look. She would have been dynamite in the Commons. She eve managed to persuade me to stand once. My sincere condolences to the children and Patrick who I knew well. The last time we met was at Patrick’s marriage after the divorce. I was glad to hear she had remarried and over the years would ask after her health. RIP Ruthie x

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