17 May 2022, The Tablet

Tributes paid to Shirley Williams at memorial service

Cardinal Vincent Nichols’s sermon paid tribute to Williams's charity, commitment to public service, and sense of mission.

Tributes paid to Shirley Williams at memorial service

The congregation in Westminster Cathedral for the memorial service for Shirley Williams, Baroness Williams of Crosby, on 10 May.
Cathoic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales/Mazur

A memorial service celebrating the life and work of Shirley Williams was held last week, Tuesday 10 May, at Westminster Cathedral, London.

Cardinal Vincent Nichols presided at the service for Baroness Williams of Crosby, one of Britain’s most prominent Catholic politicians in the postwar period. Born in 1930, she enjoyed a long career as a parliamentarian and academic, serving in both Houses of Parliament before her death, aged 90, on 12 April 2021. 

Baron Rodgers of Quarry Bank gave an opening tribute to Baroness Williams, whom he had known for seven decades since their initial meeting as undergraduates of Oxford University in the 1950s. Recalling her humour, intelligence, and independent mind, he remembered Baroness Williams, he said, with “love and affection”.

Baroness Williams served in the House of Commons for 17 years, first entering parliament as a Labour MP for Hitchin in 1964. Made a baroness in 1993, she embarked on a long career as a parliamentarian in the House of Lords, campaigning especially on education issues. She remained an active member of the House of Lords until announcing her retirement in January 2016.

In Cardinal Nichols’s sermon, he paid tribute to Williams's charity, commitment to public service, and sense of mission, all traits, he said, formed by her strong faith. Her work reflected a promise “written deep in every human soul ... that there can indeed be a better world, a more just and inclusive society, a world where the greatness and inherent dignity of every human person is honoured, and from their gifts every person is able to contribute to the common good”.

Mike Craven, chair of The Tablet, paid tribute to Baroness Williams after the service:

“Shirley Williams was a remarkable figure who made a huge impact on this country. Throughout her life, she fought for the causes she believed in, rooted in her feminist values, social democratic politics and her Catholic faith. She was always a strong supporter of The Tablet and served as a trustee for many years.”

David Owen, who with Rogers represents the two surviving members of the “gang of four” who founded the Social Democratic Party with Williams in January of 1981, was also in attendance along with figures from all the UK’s main political parties.

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