The tireless campaigner for peace and justice, Peggie Preston, died suddenly just after her 84th birthday. Peggie will be fondly remembered across the many campaigns and communities of which she was a part; she committed her life to finding political and personal solutions to poverty and oppression.
Born in India, Peggie grew up in Scotland, and travelled south to work in the Women's Auxiliary Air Force, but, horrified by the merciless bombing, she later joined the Quakers. By the early 1960s, Peggie, trained as an occupational therapist, travelled to South Africa where the violence of Apartheid was in full swing. She worked in the country's largest hospital for black patients in Johannesburg, where, she said, she learned all about injustice.
In 1968 during the Vietnam war, Peggie worked in a hospital in Saigon with refugees, stroke victims and children with polio.
“I learned that it is not enough to just toe the line. I began my service believing that I really was fighting a war to end all wars. Since then I have tried as hard as I can to spread peace around the world. From 1968 to 1973, at the height of the war, I lived in Vietnam. I've always wanted to understand what people in other countries are experiencing and suffering. We Westerners can always get out of these terrible situations, the least we can do is share in their experience and show solidarity.”
During the 80s Peggie lived in the caravan at the peace camp RAF Molesworth, protesting against the siting of cruise missiles there. She later went to Bosnia and campaigned on Palestine, East Timor and the arms trade amongst other struggles.
During the First Gulf War in 1991, Peggie joined the Gulf Peace Team in the desert, 500 kilometres from Baghdad. For the rest of her life Peggie campaigned against the economic sanctions on Iraq and the invasion and occupation of the country. Just days before she died she was delighted when her friend Kathy Kelly, the US peace activist and Nobel Peace prize nominee, stayed with her.
Connecting to the wide network of people she knew who were equally committed to peace and justice was vital for Peggie. Her support of Brian Haw throughout his continuous peace vigil never wavered. One year she walked down to Parliament Square for a cold Christmas day on the pavement and she often spent hours keeping Brian and others who visited in very good company.
Ever hopeful about the possibility of change, Peggie was a member of the Labour Party for decades, but cancelled her party membership in disgust following the invasion of Iraq. Having seen the horrors of war at close hand, the new attack on the country must have been hard to bear.
Peggie's many friends will hugely miss her cheerful presence and ability to emotionally embrace the plight of others with the most unselfish heart.