Blue plaque for disability rights campaigner to be unveiled in Whitley Bay

2 Lish Avenue in Whitley Bay
-Credit: (Image: Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle)

A blue plaque will be unveiled in Whitley Bay next week to celebrate the life and achievements of a historic local disability rights activist.

North Tyneside Council has announced the installation of a plaque commemorating Mary Elsworth Greaves (1907-1983) on her childhood home at 2 Lish Avenue, Whitley Bay. Mary Greaves was left severely disabled after contracting polio as a young child but campaigned tirelessly for years to improve services for disabled people.

She later played a vital role in passing the Chronically Sick and Disabled Persons Act 1970. The Act obligated councils to keep a record of all disabled people in their boroughs and made them responsible for providing suitable welfare and housing.

The law also gave disabled people the right to equal access to recreational and educational facilities, along with council-provided transport. In addition, the bill brought with it the requirement for disabled parking and toilets in public buildings and disabled parking badges.

Lish Avenue in Whitley Bay will adorn the plaque in memory of disability rights campaigner Mary Greaves.
Lish Avenue in Whitley Bay will adorn the plaque in memory of disability rights campaigner Mary Greaves. -Credit:Iain Buist/Newcastle Chronicle

Disability advocate and former Green Party candidate for Tynemouth in the recent General Election, Chloe-Louise Reilly said: “I think it is brilliant, it is amazing that disabled people are getting the recognition they deserve. It is a shame it has taken so long but it is very well deserved for someone who did lots of amazing things.”

Whitley Bay North councillor Joe Kirwin added: “Mary Greaves was an absolutely amazing woman, it is because of people like her that we have the disability allowance and blue parking badges.

“Britain would be a much worse place without the achievements of Mary and her contemporaries. They really drove forward how disabled people are seen in our society.”

Baroness Joyce Quin, a Member of the House of Lords, who nominated Mary for the Blue Plaque, will say a few words before the unveiling. She will be joined by North Tyneside’s Elected Mayor, Dame Norma Redfearn DBE and Professor John Heckels, one of Mary’s relatives.

Baroness Quin said: “Mary’s campaigning work to help people with disabilities brought about changes which have become an accepted and established part of British life. Her crucial role and achievements need to be highlighted, not forgotten, and for this reason, I am delighted to be asked to unveil a plaque commemorating her.”

Guests are invited to gather from 10.45am on Thursday July 18. The ceremony will begin at 11am with some words from Baroness Joyce Quin and Professor John Heckels before the official unveiling.

Off-road parking is available but limited. Whitley Bay Metro is within a 10-minute walk and there is parking nearby within the town centre.