A Tribute to
DAME MARGARET WESTON DBE
7th March 1926 - 9th January 2021
It was of great sadness that I learnt of Dame Margaret's death earlier this month (January) at the age of 94. She was the first Director of the Science Museum Group (1973-1986) and in 1975 created the National Railway Museum. It was not long afterwards that the Founding Chairman of the Association of Railway Preservation Societies (ARPS), Captain Peter Manisty, invited her to become its President. She readily accepted, but only after making it abundantly clear that she would be "very much hands on". She was - very much to our advantage.
Dame Margaret took an engineering degree and her first job after the Second World War was as an engineer working for a Clydesdale Shipyard. As one of three women working with a largely male workforce she was determined to show that she was as good as any man, if not better; from what I heard from former colleagues, she was very successful in achieving both aims.
Dame Margaret was very keen, nay, insistent, that our heritage railways should maintain high standards of safety, reliability and professionalism. She was also a supporter of the Association and of me personally. It was largely due to her that ARPS, which later became the Heritage Railway Association (HRA) soon became recognised by Government and the regulatory authorities as the representative of the heritage railway sector.
Dame Margaret enjoyed the enthusiasm of the volunteer sector and it was therefore natural that I consulted her when I was adapting the BESTT constitution to be compliant with Charity Law in 2012/13. The fact that we were successful was largely due to taking and following her advice. She took an active interest in our activities and not averse to expressing her views. She was, in my view, delightfully "politically incorrect". I remember her being addressed by one participant, "Chair", he said, on the point of raising some issue, when she interrupted "I am not a chair. Chairs are for sitting on. No one ever sits on me." And no one did, as anyone who attempted to interrupt one of her famous monologues will testify! She was a formidable lady: we were lucky to have her support.
David Morgan MBE TD