Rosemary Foley

YCW organiser for Tyneside, covering Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland and other areas

Rosemary was a local girl, from South Shields, who became an organiser. She started and supported sections, spotted and cultivated leaders, organised study week-ends and rallies and built participation in YCW campaigns. One of my interviews with a former YCW local leader, MJ, from a Northumberland town described how Rosemary supported her work with her teams of girls:

I always remember Rosemary Laidler saying, ‘Go with them’, she said, ‘whatever they’re doing, go with them and see, be there’.

Did you go off to regional meetings?

Oh yes, once a month, I’d travel up to Newcastle on the bus and go to the office with Rosemary and meet the other leaders, and they’d talk about what are the problems that we’ve met, what’s coming up next or whatever, and that’s where I first met Owen. He’d been brought on full-time to be an organiser, because there was nothing for the boys then. There was a lot going on for the girls, Rosemary had a lot of things going, but there was nothing for the boys then.

Rosemary supported MJ. when her father died, leaving her with no family, and encouraged her to move to London and work in YCW HQ.

Later Rosemary married Michael Foley, another organiser, who was later to work full-time on the development of Family and Social Action, (FSA), the successor movement for former YCWs, which later still re-founded itself as the MCW.

Extract from homily at her requiem given by Canon Edward Mitchinson, former YCW national chaplain (published in New Life)

Rosemary became a full-time YCW soon after ill-health brought my time of service as national chaplain to a close in 1958. But like many others in their time of training as organisers, Rosemary was sent to me for a day’s session on the YCW fundamentals. All of these – truths of faith and reality – the truth of Movement in the contacting, grouping, educating, serving and representing the mass of young workers always concluded with ‘And all this for their temporal and eternal destiny’. The emphasis of Cardijn and therefore mine was that only through our temporal destiny can we enter the destiny that is eternal.

So dear Rosemary has now completed and fulfilled her temporal destiny. And what a fulfilment! Two days ago I was researching through past copies of New Life for purposes that don’t concern us here and I came across five wonderful articles by Rosemary: 1959: ‘Out in the Streets, Houses and Workplaces’ by Rosemary Laidler – a report on housing enquiries and action from North Shields, 1961 – ‘Teenage Courtship’; 1962 ‘The Apostolate of the factory’, still by Rosemary Laidler. Then by 1978 she had happily become Rosemary Foley and then there are two articles, one of that year ‘You’ll never walk alone’, and another of 1981 ‘Care of One-Parent families’. Both of these articles are on the same theme, that of her beloved single parent groups on which Rosemary poured out the Rose-lie and Mary-like fragrance of her love.

Single parent groups ranked high for her among the 7 or 8 other FSA groups which Rosemary and Michael helped to start, build up and sustain during their twenty-two years of fruitful apostolate in Thornton Heath.