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Treasured Islington historian celebrates her 99th birthday

09 March, 2018 — By Emily Finch

Historian Mary Cosh with her cake of many candles

ONE of the borough’s most treasured historians celebrated her 99th birthday on Saturday with a glass of white wine and a chocolate cake with enough candles to light up the room.

Long-time Barnsbury resident Mary Cosh attributes her long life to the company of her two cats, Catson and Rico, and her kindly lodger Jonathan.

“I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like cats,” she said, after enjoying an Italian meal with friends in Upper Street.

Ms Cosh, who has lived in the borough for more than 50 years, says she never wants to leave. “It’s very pleasant, particularly because of my neighbours,” she added.

The historian co-founded the Islington Society, which hosts events throughout the year. She has published around 12 books, with one focused on the history of a house in Cross Street. Other topics covered include Scottish history and the stories behind the squares of Islington.

But she didn’t find it easy to become a historian after joining the civil service at the age of 18.

“I was unhappy, but the war let me escape from the Ministry of Labour,” she said.

Ms Cosh became a telegraphist with the Wrens – the Women’s Royal Naval Service – in Alexandria, Egypt, during World War II. She would later study English at Oxford University before becoming a writer in the 1950s.

David Gibson, chairman of the Islington Society, said: “Mary is an important historian. She produces original work and is a very good writer. Her books are very readable.

“Her history of Islington is currently the best out there.”

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