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Tributes are paid to eminent Islington historian

Friends and relatives of Mary Cosh gather to celebrate her intellect and fun

17 January, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Mary Cosh wrote several books charting the history of Islington

TRIBUTES were paid to one of Islington’s most celebrated historians at a memorial service this week.

Friends of Mary Cosh, who lived to be 100, spoke of the author’s “intellect” and “indefectible” determination as she wrote several books charting the history of Islington, becoming an iconic figure in the borough.

Members of the Islington Society, the influential conservation group that Ms Cosh helped set up, filled the Islington crematorium chapel on Monday, along with her family.

James Dunnett, Ms Cosh’s neighbour of more than 30 years

Ms Cosh’s niece Claire Sinclair, who travelled from New Mexico in America to attend the ceremony, said: “Mary was great fun. She was sisterly in her way and I felt like I could confide in her when I had something on my mind. She was very sympathetic. I am sad Mary never got to grips with email later in her life. I don’t think she could really hear me when we talked over the phone in the last year or so and we had so much to talk about. She will be missed, there’s no doubt about it.”

Ms Cosh was a regular contributor to the Islington Tribune by letter and often provided quotes and briefings.

Emily Finch, who was a reporter at the paper for three years, gave a eulogy at the funeral.

She said: “When you read her work it sounds like she is speaking to you and if anyone is ever feeling lonely or missing Mary, I really recommend reading her books because she is still there.”

Claire Sinclair, Mary Cosh’s niece

Ms Cosh’s neighbour of more than 30 years James Dunnett, who stood up after Ms Finch, described the author’s life writing 10 books about Islington including 53 Cross Street which she co-authored with historian Martin King.

Mr King dismantled the walls of his old home, an 18th-century terraced block, and Ms Cosh documented the artefacts he found to tell the stories of the ordinary working people who had once lived there.

She also wrote the “magnificently produced” history of Scotland’s capital city Edinburgh during the Enlightenment era known as the “golden period”.

The order of service

Ms Cosh lived with her lodger Jonathan Garcia and had help from an army of carers which allowed her to continue writing from her desk in Albion Mews, Barnsbury, up to her last days.

Mr Dunnett said: “I well remember my last visit to Mary, sitting in her wonderful study at the top of her house with its fine light and views out.

“How wonderful that she was able to live there until the end of her life, due to the support of Jonathan for which we must all be very grateful.”

A wake was held in Frederick’s restaurant in Camden Passage, the same venue her 100th birthday was celebrated in March last year, which Islington South MP Emily Thornberry and Lord Chris Smith attended.


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