Social reformer tries hard to help the poor

Pru Heathcote with a copy of  'Service Not Self'. Picture by Colin Heathcote
Pru Heathcote with a copy of 'Service Not Self'. Picture by Colin Heathcote

A Warkworth author and playwright’s new book about a battling social reformer who worked tirelessly to improve the lives of poverty-stricken folk in one of Northumberland’s most prosperous towns is published this month.

Pru Heathcote will be signing copies of Service Not Self, based on the memoirs of campaigning local councillor Dorothy Robson, outside Waterstones book shop in Morpeth tomorrow, from 2pm.

The book signing will be among a series of events at the Morpeth Gathering that will include a dramatic tableau reflecting some of Dorothy’s work.

Service Not Self reveals how miner’s wife and mother-of-two Dorothy took on Morpeth’s leading figures of the 1930s in what she described as ‘perhaps the most corrupt little town in the country’ to highlight the plight of families living in squalid slums just yards from the prosperous high street.

As she fought to improve conditions she was referred to as ‘that bloody woman’ by a local employer and was branded a mischief-maker by a distinguished alderman who was alleged to have remarked ‘folk did not know they lived in slums before she told them’.

Pru was commissioned by the Dorothy Robson Memorial Trust to distil the 190,000 words that had been extracted from her notebooks to the 19,000 word volume that has been published with support from the William Leech charity, Greater Morpeth Development Trust, Northumberland County Council, the Heritage Lottery fund and the Emily Inspires organisation.

Pru said: “Writing the book has been a fascinating and truly educational experience; I discovered so many interesting things about life in the 1930s. Apart from the rat-infested living conditions in parts of the town, there was the lack of antenatal care that nearly cost Dorothy her life.”Service Not Self will be available in local bookshops priced £6. It can also be bought by contacting Maureen Pearson on