Dame Sheila McKechnie, Falkirk
A bronze bust memorial of trade unionist Sheila McKechnie, a former director of the homeless charity Shelter and the Consumers’ Association, was unveiled in Falkirk town centre park in August 2005, 18 months after she died in January 2004, aged 55.
Falkik born McKechnie attended Edinburgh University. In 1972 she became Assistant General Secretary of the Wallpaper Workers’ Union. Two years later she became a tutor with the Workers’ Educational Association. In 1976 she joined the Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (which through subsequent mergers is now part of UNITE) as National Health and Safety Officer. She turned health and safety issues from minor concerns into major issues.
In 1985 she moved as Director to Shelter where she turned the organisation once again into a potent force tackling homelessness and its many causes. In doing so she changed many government policies for the better.
In 1995 Sheila McKechnie joined the Consumers’ Association where she again successfully mounted campaigns, this time on mortgage mis-selling and car prices. She also tackled standards in the food industry such that it led to the setting up of the Food Standards Agency in 2000.
She described herself during this time as a “fully paid-up member of the awkward squad” but others remember her as one of the best campaigners of her generation, someone who never tired of fighting injustice and for equality. Awarded an OBE in 1995, she was created a Dame in 2001 for her work on behalf of consumers.
Following her death, partner Alan Grant helped to establish the Sheila McKechnie Foundation http://smk.org.uk and commissioned London sculptress Susanna Robinson to produce the bust, which was unveiled in Dollar Park, close to the Cenotaph on Camelon Road, Falkirk in August 2005.
Provost Jim Johnston, who was among the invited guests at the unveiling, said: “Dame Sheila was an inspiration to us all and a true people’s champion.
“The bust is a very fitting tribute to a marvellous lady and it sits well in the perfect surroundings of Dollar Park. We hope people will find this quiet spot the ideal place to reflect on Dame Sheila’s life.”
Many thanks to the Unite national health and safety officer Bud Hudspith for the photograph and information that appears here.