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100th birthday salute to Mary Cosh, our Islington historian

Lord Smith tells her: "Islington is infinitely richer and better understood as a result of your work"

08 March, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Mary with her MP Emily Thornberry

A CHERISHED historian credited with making “Islington a richer place” celebrated her 100th birthday by sipping champagne at a party in her honour on Saturday.

Mary Cosh, who has lived in Barnsbury for 50 years, told gathered friends that her long life was down to “luck”.

Mary with the birthday card from the Queen

“I’ve been extremely lucky. As a child I was always ill and my mother was fussing over me. It is a very pleasant surprise that people start praising you towards the end of your life,” she said.

She was “happy” to have received a personalised birthday card from the Queen, but added: “I am not a royalist.”

Members of the Islington Society, which helps preserve historic buildings, presented Mary with a giant Victoria sponge cake at her party at Fredericks Restaurant, in Camden Passage, Islington.

Lord Smith praising Mary’s work 

Mary has produced a series of works, including a 350-page book on the history of the borough, from the Paleolithic era to the early 2000s. She also helped create the Islington Society back in 1960.

Andrew Bosi, former chairman of the society, praised her activism, which helped save the Royal Agricultural Hall in Angel, now the Business Design Centre.

He said: “Mary was involved in two very successful campaigns. The council wanted to demolish the Royal Agricultural Hall in the 1970s, but she told them to ‘Go have a look at it before you pull it down’.

“The building is a great tribute to Mary that will live on in the borough for centuries.”

Mr Bosi explained how he and Mary were on the picket line together in the campaign to save Bravington House, in King’s Cross, from demolition.

Lord Smith, president of the Islington Society and a former Labour Cabinet minister, told Mary that “Islington is infinitely richer and better understood and better valued as a result of the work you have done.”

He added: “We thank you for being the historian, storyteller and architectural valuer of the borough that we know and love.”

Speaking to the Tribune, Islington South MP Emily Thornberry, who was one of the guests, said: “We’re all really proud of Mary. She’s reminded us of the richness that is Islington.

“It’s important for people to know the history of where they live. It gives a sense of place and helps to define ourselves. Mary has played an incredibly important part in this.”

Mary hosted a tea party for her closest friends on Sunday, her actual birthday.

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