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A fitting tribute to Margaret

Sister Siobhain sums up Margaret's contribution to the community

15 August 2023

Club News

A fitting tribute to Margaret

Sister Siobhain sums up Margaret's contribution to the community

15 August 2023

A tribute to Margaret McDonagh was included in our matchday programme on Saturday - and this is republished below.

For those supporters who missed it, the article summed up Margaret's dedication to the local community. 

A great friend of AFC Wimbledon, Margaret McDonagh, died from brain cancer on 24 June, at the age of 61.

Margaret is pictured centre above with Mark Betteridge (former Deputy Leader of Merton Council) and her sister Siobhain, at a game at Kingsmeadow.

Siobhain, the MP for Mitcham and Morden, put together the following tribute: 

My sister had a fancy title (she was Baroness McDonagh of Mitcham and Morden in the London Borough of Merton) but on the terraces she was Margaret, season ticket holder and loyal fan. For her, it wasn’t just about getting behind the team, it was about community. The supporters were just as important as the players.

Margaret’s passion for AFC Wimbledon came through our Dad, who had also been a season ticket holder. They were both there on that day at Wembley in 1988 when Liverpool were defeated.

Margaret helped AFC Wimbledon in any way that she could and was particularly proud of the Club launching the summer scheme at Phipps Bridge in Mitcham. It gave youngsters free access to sports activities and other fun things. Margaret raised thousands of pounds to get the project off the ground and made sure the kids got to meet their Dons heroes. Kids from all over the area signed up. It proved so popular that it had become two schemes within a fortnight!

Margaret at PL.jpeg

Helping people was in her blood. She was a tremendous political operator, becoming the first female General Secretary of the Labour Party. She worked alongside Sir Tony Blair to help him secure two landslide election victories. She could be tough. She was famous for organising events and getting everyone to pull their weight; people fell into line because they knew it was for the greater good, never for her own benefit. She believed politics needed to be about making life better for people - not just a few people but families in need. I remember her delight when Blair’s government brought in the national minimum wage. As she put it: “a million people have just had a pay rise”.

How well she was regarded could be seen on the day of her funeral at St Boniface’s in Tooting. Sir Tony was there along with another former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, the current Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and a host of other politicians.

Margaret was also keen to help women advance in the workplace. She launched The Pipeline, a training programme to ensure women were equipped for top positions. It was typical Margaret. She didn’t tell companies off for having few female executives, instead she supplied them with the talent they couldn’t ignore.

To coin a phrase, she was helping others reach for the sky while she kept her own feet firmly on the ground. And, for her, that ground was always Plough Lane.

Margaret died from a brain tumour called glioblastoma. There has been no progress in its treatment for decades. Vital drugs trials are needed but few are happening. If you would like to sponsor drug trials at University College London Hospitals, in Margaret’s name, please make a donation.

Just Giving page.

Margaret and Foundation.jpg

In our extensive tribute to Margaret, AFC Wimbledon Chair, Mick Buckley, summed up her contribution to the Club:

I first met Margaret in April 2002 when we both attended a 12-week business management course in the States. We bonded over our London Irish roots and our passion for Wimbledon FC. We were together in Boston the dreaded day the FA independent Commission announced their incorrect decision.

We were soon back in Wimbledon doing whatever we could to help with the launch of AFC Wimbledon. Margaret was incredibly well connected in a very modest way. She and her wonderful sister Siobhan have supported the club through challenging times sometimes publicly, sometimes behind the scenes.

Margaret was a founding trustee of the AFC Wimbledon Foundation along with me, Erik Samuelson, and Nigel Higgs.

She was relentlessly demanding of all of us to keep the Club and Foundation moving forward in the right way, always looking to see how we could genuinely add to the communities of her beloved East Merton.

Margaret achieved amazing things in her political career.  Tony Blair called her his boss. She changed history in 1997. She could relate to all kinds of people and was never happier than leading a team of volunteers, selling raffle tickets at Kingsmeadow so that we could provide summer holiday activities to the kids in Phipps Bridge.

The Phipps Bridge project mentioned by Siobhan is amongst my AFC Wimbledon highlights. It was a beautiful thing that Margaret created with Karen Peck and Phil Rudling and his team.

Margaret came to the Northampton game last September. She was clearly not great, but her spirit and determination were not waning. She asked me how things were? I said I was finding it challenging, she gave me that look that said, “you need to dig deep and figure it out.” She then gave me that lovely warm smile that she had.

Margaret was relentlessly demanding for all the right reasons but had a lovely softer side as well. She was completely authentic. I will miss her being around, pushing us on, and so will AFC Wimbledon.

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