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Camden New Journal - OBITUARY
Published: 25 September 2008

Lady Milford
A child of the revolution who lived by her principles

TAMARA Philipps, later Lady Milford, led an extraordinary life that began in revolutionary Russia and ended at her home in Lyndhurst Road, Hampstead.
The Russian émigré, who has died aged 95, was celebrated at her funeral service in Golders Green on Monday for her lifelong commitment to socialist ideas, a love of fashion and as a former tennis champion who once played at Wimbledon.
“She had a sparrow-like frame, with bones of steel,” said one close friend, the writer Jamila Gavin, at the service.
Born in Georgia in 1913, and with both parents leaving her at an early age, Lady Milford’s friends told how she was “mothered by the Soviet Union”. During the 1917 Russian revolution she would carry food parcels around the town, often consuming them on the way due to hunger.
It was during that time, friends said, that she was ingrained with principles that would stay with her right up until her death.
After arriving in England, she married the editor of the radical Daily Worker, Bill Rust then, after his early death, Wogan Philipps. Wogan was the only Communist Party member to take a seat in the House of Lords and in his maiden speech in 1962 the radical peer called for the abolition of the chamber.
The couple lived in the Gloucestershire countryside for more than two decades in a farmhouse remodelled by the progressive Russian architect Berthold Lubetkin.
Speaking at the service, Kate Kavanagh, wife of poet Patrick Kavanagh, said: “They were up at five in the morning milking the cows. There would be a lot of laughter at the farm and she was clearly upset when they moved to London in 1982.”
With her husband keen to be closer to the House of Lords, the couple bought a house in Lyndhurst Road.
Ms Gavin described the Hampstead house with its purple bed-spread, cow’s skin rug on the floor and adorned with pictures of her husband, who died in 1993.
Friend and neighbour Regan Scott remembered Lady Milford driving her tiny Renault 5 and about the fury directed at the curator of an exhibition of her husband’s paintings in Swiss Cottage library. One canvas – depicting the bleak political forces – had been left on display positioned upside-down.
Mr Scott, a trade unionist, then read from a eulogy by Margaret Morris, an expert historian of the General Strike in 1926, and wife of the former president of the National Union of Teachers, Max Morris.
He read: “I tried hard to get Tamara to describe her childhood in the Soviet Union but she always shied away.
“She played tennis well and took part in junior Wimbledon in 1935. It may seem odd to think of so seemingly frail a person banging the balls around, but her frailty was deceptive. She was tough, wiry and full of energy most of her life and very committed to the movements in which she believed.
“In addition to helping the local Communist party she became an active supporter of the Movement for Colonial Freedom, and the Anti-apartheid movement. Tamara and Wogan cared, not for themselves, but for the poor of the world. She was a true partner to Wogan and they were always happy together. She was never able to get over his death.”
The short service ended with a rendition of the Bandiera Rossa, a homage to the Red Flag and Communist marching song:
Avanti o popolo, alla riscossa,
Bandiera rossa, Bandiera rossa.
Avanti o popolo, alla riscossa,
Bandiera rossa
Tom Foot

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