Obituary: Marjorie Mary McInnes OBE

Marjorie McInnes OBE,'' social work pioneer and stalwart of the Baptist Church who lived to serve others. Picture: Contributed
Marjorie McInnes OBE,'' social work pioneer and stalwart of the Baptist Church who lived to serve others. Picture: Contributed
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SOCIAL work pioneer and stalwart of the Baptist Church who lived to serve others

Born: 21 July 1917.

Died: 30 November 2015. Aged 98

It was fitting that so many people of all ages attended the Service of Thanksgiving to acknowledge with gratitude the life and achievements of Marjorie Mary McInnes OBE, whose influence in Scotland was profound in the field of disability and within the Baptist Church.

Marjorie was the daughter of Robert and Nettie McInnes. She had an older sister, Eileen, and a younger brother, Roy. They were born into a wealthy timber merchant family which fell upon hard times in the late 1920s. Her father died when she was ten. While she began her education at Craigholme School she completed it through a bursary at Hutcheson Girls Grammar School in 1934.

Initially she found work in a publishing house, and on leaving that got a job as a bank clerk. Her teenage years were beset by illnesses which she finally overcame.

Her interest in the caring profession was kindled by a member of her church. With the support and encouragement of her mother, who had provided for her family by writing The Janet Henderson Diary for the Glasgow Evening Herald, Marjorie determined to seek a career in social work, then in its infancy.

Marjorie obtained the Diploma in Social Services from Glasgow University in 1939, there being no degree course at that time, and proceeded to train as an almoner (later called medical social worker) at the Institute of Almoners in London. She qualified in 1940. Her first posts were in 1941-42 working as an almoner at Hull Royal Infirmary, Stafford Royal Infirmary and as a caseworker at Greenock Social Services Council. These were all locum posts.

For a brief period in 1942-43 she worked in Southport, but on hearing that her brother, who was in the RAF, had been killed over France she returned to Scotland. From November 1943 to May 1948 Marjorie was almoner at Hairmyres Hospital, East Kilbride. She was exempt from war service as this hospital had a military wing but she was active as a volunteer in civil defence.

One of Marjorie’s great achievements was the work she undertook between the years 1949-52 as one of the social work representatives on the Cope Report, set up to establish a register for all medical auxiliaries. Marjorie and her colleague objected vehemently to almoners being included as auxiliaries and were finally successful in the establishment of social work as a separate profession.

During the years 1948-1953 Marjorie held the post of Head Almoner at the Victoria Infirmary in Glasgow and from 1954-57 was Head Almoner at Western Infirmary, Glasgow. During this period she also had a part-time teaching post in the University Department of Public Health and Social Medicine.

In January 1958, Marjorie was appointed the first social worker to the then Department of Health for Scotland in Edinburgh. Initially she worked single handedly but she was later appointed Chief Welfare Officer and allowed to have two assistants.

In 1969 all social work in the Scottish Office amalgamated – child care, and probation united with health following the implementation of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968. Marjorie was appointed Deputy Chief Social Work Adviser within the Central Advisory Service of Social Work Services Group.

She held this post with great distinction and was held in the highest regard by all her 
colleagues throughout the Scottish Office.

Her retirement at the age of 61 in 1978 was the commencement of a new career serving within the Scottish voluntary sector. She contributed another two decades of guidance and oversight to many major Scottish charities. It was the recognition of her work as Convener of the Scottish Council on Disability which led to her being honoured by the Queen in the New Year’s Honours List for 1982.

Marjorie’s Christian faith enriched everything she did and achieved. She was a lifelong member of Adelaide Place Baptist Church – where she served as Deacon and subsequently Honorary Deacon – and also the wider denomination of the Baptist Union of Scotland through the Scottish Baptist College. In 1990 she was elected President of the Union – the only woman to have achieved this position.

In November 1991 Marjorie and her sister Eileen were involved in a road accident from which Eileen never recovered – she died in May 1992.

Marjorie never married but she had a vast circle of friends in Scotland and abroad with whom she always kept in close touch and with whom she pursued a wide range of interests. She had a great ability to tell humorous stories, having both wit and wisdom. On retiring from the Presidency of the Baptist Union Marjorie handed a duster to the newly elected President, saying: “Remember, today’s peacock is tomorrows feather duster.”

Marjorie McInnes served her countrymen with distinction. She always had time, for both individuals and organisations concerned with disability, to discuss problems. She had a particular concern for the poor and disadvantaged and exercised all her energy and skills to help them. She dealt with everybody with a gracious and humble Christian spirit.

Hers was a long, productive and well-lived life. Scotland will be the poorer for her passing.

She is survived by her two cousins, Nancie Blackie and Jean Tilbury.