One of London’s traditionally most Irish boroughs, Hammersmith and Fulham, will this week say farewell to its ‘first ever’ Irish mayor.
Councillor Daryl Brown, who represents the North End borough and has lived locally for most of her adult life, is finishing her year in office this weekend with an ‘Irish Night’ and a ‘chain gang of mayors’ from other London boroughs.
The 63-year old further education teacher and mother of an adult son and two adult daughters came to London with her husband and their first child in 1987 when she was 31.
This weekend she is holding a charity Irish night at Hammersmith Town Hall to raise funds for two local charities, Hammersmith Food Bank and the Baron’s Court Project. Both help people in the greatest need.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
“I come from Rathgar where I lived until I was 12 and then we went to Sutton and I went to Mount Temple Comprehensive, the same school as U2, some of them were in my sister’s class.
“My father Eric Deaker Brown, who died in 1977 was the first person to build a cinema in Bagenalstown, Co Carlow. It had a corrugated roof in the beginning and my father made sure he went to every cinema, he was so proud of his. At one stage he used to hand paint all the posters.
“My mother’s name was Mildred Rea, her father, David Rea, owned the local garage. My mum lived in Sutton for many years and two years before she died moved in to a caring home in Howth. I must have spent every holiday going over to see her.
“I came over here to live in 1987, at first because of my husband’s work. We’ve always lived here and have lived in our current house in Hammersmith for 22 years.
“We live off Brook Green, near the exhibition centre at Olympia.”
How long have you been a councillor?
“This is my third term so nine years, always a councillor in North End where all the redevelopment is.
“At no stage did I ever even consider becoming a councillor because I had no confidence in myself, I just loved community work and because I was bringing up my family I was doing a lot of voluntary work and then someone turned around to me one day and said Daryl you’d make a fabulous councillor.
“Then I was at an event and I was speaking to Mr William Hunter of the local Labour Party and he said I was exactly the kind of person they were looking for and that was it. I went for it.
“I made three attempts in three elections and I got in on the third attempt in 2002, and never looked back. My first attempt was on Brook Green in Avonmore. My second attempt was in North End and my third attempt I got it.
“I gave up teaching almost three years ago, I was teaching Further Education in Hammersmith and West London College and took a very good redundancy deal. It was fabulous because I was a mother and a politician and a teacher and I could just walk to work and to the Town Hall, I don’t like to drive.”
What would you say are the achievements with which you and your fellow councillors have been associated?
“I’m so happy with what we’ve achieved in terms of health – and at the moment I’m very interested in providing podiatry, carers are not allowed cut toenails when they visit their patient, so their toenails are growing out and probably why we see so many with Zimmer frames and mobility devices. Feet can also sometimes be an early warning of Type 2 diabetes.
“We are also very adamant about looking after older people in our borough, so we have the Older People’s Commission which is independent, and they make recommendations.
“Our policy is not to do things for people but with them. We have accountability meetings and ask them what they want us to do.
“One of the great things about an area like Hammersmith is it is just so diverse we have Irish, of course, West Indian, Egyptian, Nigerian, Polish and so many more, it is just so diverse.
“You see so many people of all income groups from so many backgrounds and the value they place on education, which is what it is so important to this Borough.
“I still feel I love my roots, I’m extremely proud to be Irish but I’ve settled here, embraced the culture here, I feel very comfortable living here.
“My son was born in Ireland my two daughters were born here. It’s fabulous to have a shared culture.
“That is why even after, whisper the word, Brexit, Ireland and England must keep the ties its always had through history.
Tell us about the two charities you’re supporting with your charity fundraising night.
“They are community charities, the Hammersmith Food Bank and the Baron’s Court Project on Talgarth Road which helps homeless people and people with mental health problems and provides them with an address if they are looking for work, or a change of clothing as well.
“As for the Food Bank, it is a known fact that we have shocking poverty in the northern part of our borough. I had a family recently who had to put on the vacuum cleaner for warmth, their hands were frozen.
“A lot of it is caused by delays in Universal Credit which have made it difficult for people to budget and many have ended up in terrible debt.
“The Hammersmith & Fulham provides emergency food parcels to individuals in need and to other organisations working to prevent or relieve poverty as well as providing practical advice and support to individuals to help them find lasting relief from financial hardship.
“It also runs children’s holiday clubs, a cookery and meal planning course – called ‘Eat Well Spend Less’, drop-in sessions for the community, and provides professional advice via two Citizen’s Advice workers, based in its Foodbank Centres.
“It serves homemade soup and sandwiches every Monday and Friday to clients visiting the food bank.
“The event this weekend is to bring the local Irish community together, the Irish Cultural Centre up the road doesn’t have everything, after all, it doesn’t have the Mayor.
So about being ‘the first-ever Irish Mayor’?
“Well, we certainly don’t know of anyone before me in the post being Irish, and Keith the Mace Bearer has been here for thirty years, will that do?”