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Community crusader saluted with new plaque

Vicky Marsh in the garden commemorating her mother Susan
Vicky Marsh in the garden commemorating her mother Susan

The daughter of a woman who fought to get a community hub built decades ago has spoken of her pride as a new plaque and garden were unveiled in her memory.

Dozens of people gathered at Dorset Road Community Centre in Atherton to see the new tributes to Susan Marsh, who campaigned for the building and persuaded local youngsters to go door-to-door with petitions.

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Wigan Council chief executive Donna Hall performed the ceremonials of revealing the plaque and visitors also enjoyed seeing the newly-created outdoor memorial space which will serve as a haven of peace and quiet.

For Susan’s daughter Vicky Marsh, who lives in Atherton, it was also a day to find out more about her mother’s extraordinary commitment to the Hag Fold area as Susan tragically died while she was still very young and Vicky was just an infant.

Vicky said: “I’m very proud, dead emotional and a bit overwhelmed.

“I haven’t got a lot of memories from when my mum was alive so seeing her name on the plaque is surreal.

“The place is beautiful. I only found out about this recently when my partner saw a Facebook post mentioning her and thought I should see it.

“It’s very special and we’re both going to keep coming here and doing a bit to ensure it always looks as nice as it does now.

“It’s really peaceful and it’s somewhere nice I can come that’s associated with my mum.

“I came here when I was very young and I’d been told a bit that my mum had something to do with the place, but the old records that have been found show what a massive thing it was she did when she was so young herself.”

Vicky was presented with a large bouquet of flowers by Ms Hall as part of the official event.

Recognising Susan has been a long-held aim of the community centre led by Norman Bradbury, with a crowdfunding campaign run to help find the money.

Susan started her bid for a focal point for the estate in 1971, feeling it was in dire need of something to bring people together and give them things to do.

The building was finally opened five years later following petitions to the district council in Atherton.

The memorial garden also has a noticeboard bearing the names of the youngsters who collected signatures, after Mr Bradbury and fellow volunteers trawled local newspaper archives to unearth the full story of the petition.

Mr Bradbury says his own time as an independent representative in the chamber left him full of admiration for what Susan managed to achieve.

He said: “It’s a very special day. We didn’t realise all the effort Susan Marsh put in to achieve this centre. Without her none of us would have been here.

"We were very pleased with the number of people who came to the event and who have been involved or contributed to the crowdfunding. The garden looks fantastic and is going to be a nice quiet, relaxed place.

"Susan’s efforts show what one person can do for a place and a community. The way she inspired young people to get a petition was amazing.”

Ms Hall said afterwards: “It was a privilege to celebrate the work of Susan Marsh with her family and friends.

“Susan’s story is one of community spirit and a can do attitude which shows that so much is achievable if you put your mind to it.

“Her vision for the area is exactly what we knew communities across the borough have always demonstrated and we continue to help harness that desire to make a difference where people live through The Deal.”