Molly was born in 1926, one of nine children. Her father was a coalminer and 4 of her 5 brothers also went ‘down the pit’, in the Lancashire coalfields. They lived in a small 3 bedroom terrace with no bathroom, in a street of pithead cottages. Molly left school at 14 and like her 3 sisters, went into domestic service, and later worked in factories. She had no qualifications.
She was encouraged to join YCW by Fr Grey, the PP at her parish of English Martyrs, Haydock. He encouraged and mentored her, giving her books to read and paying expenses when she needed to travel to meetings. She rose through the YCW levels and was asked to join the national team of organisers around 1948, when she was 22. She left her village, and moved to the girls’ YCW HQ in London SW9. As an organiser, she travelled up and down the country; the archives record a whirlwind of activity visiting regions, organising seminarists study weeks, study week-ends, campaigns etc. She was one of a team of 5-6 girls’ organisers who worked across the country. The girls’ movement was at that time independent and autonomous, although there was close collaboration with the lads movement through the national committee and joint events and activities. In 1950/51, she became national secretary of the girls’ movement, in effect the leader (the title of president was reserved for the leader of the boys movement).
She attended meetings in Paris and, I think, Rome. Such travel and responsibility would have been unheard of in her village; none of her siblings ever moved further than 3 miles from the house in which they grew up. The YCW girls’ team of organisers lived on a shoestring – they received ten shillings a week pocket money only.
In the November 1950 edition of New Life, the YCW journal of the social apostolate (primarily aimed at chaplains at that time), there is an article by her, some 14 pages on ‘The Growth of a Section’. The next article is by Marie-Dominique Chenu, on ‘Spiritual Approach to a Technical Civilisation’. How did a working class girl with little or no education, still in her early 20s, get to be published alongside one of the leading Catholic theologians of the twentieth century? The answer is YCW.
Around 1953, she trained as a personnel officer in C and A Modes, as she prepared for marriage to Joe Jones, another organiser, who came from Liverpool. They married in 1954 and set up home in Waterloo. There were seven children (of which I was the 2nd). In their married life, Joe and Molly continued their commitment; they were active in FSA and in progressive Catholic activities. They were as active in their parish as successive conservative clergy would allow, and when lay ministries became possible, they took up roles as readers and Eucharistic ministers. Joe raised the funds to pay the salary of the Liverpool YCW organiser for some 20 years or more, as treasurer of the management committee.
Molly didn’t work until her youngest child started school, but as soon as he did, she became a home help, providing care for elderly people in their homes. She loved the job and always worked many more hours than she was paid for. She had always cared for elderly neighbours and parishioners; indeed, her later vocation was to this work. Later, when her eldest daughter became a founder member of L’arche Liverpool, she welcomed members of the l’arche community to many family celebrations. Her hospitality was legendary. She died in 2004.