Eileen Teresa Lowther was born into a large Traveller family in Ireland in 1953. Her mother was from Ballina, County Mayo, her father from Offaly. The family lived in Donegal until her parents decided to follow their older children to the UK when Eileen was eight, first to Glasgow and then onto Leeds where Eileen stayed for most of her life. Eileen had a happy childhood. In 1975 Eileen married Mandy Lowther and they had six children together. Sadly Mandy became unwell in his 30s which caused the family to move into a house in Beeston. When Mandy died aged only 39 Eileen moved her family back to the Cottingley Springs caravan site on the outskirts of Leeds. Bringing up the children on her own was hard, often Eileen had three cleaning jobs on the go.
As the children grew older Eileen had a little more time and became a founder member of the Leeds Gypsy and Traveller Exchange (Leeds GATE), a members’ organisation dedicated to improving the lives of Gypsy and Traveller people. Her support and generosity to the organisation was unfailing and in 2006 Eileen became the Chair, a role which took her around the country to events and conferences where she was an inspiration not only to her fellow community members but to all who met her or heard her speak. It is consistently said about Eileen that she was there for everyone and would not place one person’s interests, including her own, above any others. She was a great communicator, engaging with people from all walks of life without favouring any.
Tragedy visited Eileen and her family again 2012 when her oldest daughter, Kathleen Morrison, was struck down by cancer leaving the family devastated. Ever one to pick up and get on with things Eileen dedicated herself to raising Kathleen’s sons and supporting the grieving family who regard her as their rock.
After a while Eileen stepped back from the demands of the Chair role at Leeds GATE and was made honorary President. It was a terrible shock to all who knew her when it was discovered in 2016 that Eileen had cancer, indeed had probably had the disease for some time. Eileen carried on without treatment as it was believed unlikely to extend her life. Although anticipated for some time, her death this week has come as a devastating blow to her surviving daughter’s Eileen and AnnMare, sons Mandy, Jimmy and Jojo, her many grandchildren, relations, friends and colleagues at Leeds GATE and across the UK and Ireland. The funeral will be held at St Anthony’s, Beeston, Leeds, at 2pm on Friday 15th September, all are welcome.
The Travellers’ Times wishes to send its condolences to Eileen’s family, friends and colleagues.