Madge Davison (13th June 1949 - 27th January 1991)
Madge Davison was born on 13 June 1949, in the (Protestant) Shore Road area of north Belfast, where her family lived in Pittsburg Street. She left school at the age of seventeen and worked in Gallaher’s tobacco factory as a secretary. She joined the Communist Youth League at the age of sixteen and took part in the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and anti-racist demonstrations. She took part in the demonstrations against the American war in Viet Nam; on 18 May 1968, along with others, she threw herself in front of sailors from the American destroyer Keppler, as they marched along Royal Avenue in the Lord Mayor’s parade.
In 1970, the Communist Youth League merged with the Connolly Youth Movement (founded in 1963) and Madge Davison became the first general secretary of the all-Ireland CYM. In 1973, she helped to lead the 114-strong Irish delegation to the World Youth Festival in Berlin (German Democratic Republic). She was a member of the National Executive Committee of the CPI from the early 1970s. She contributed to policy-making regarding women in Ireland and, along with Margaret Bruton, Lynda Walker, Jenny Williams and Hazel Morrissey, put together the CPI publication Breaking the Chains: Selected Writings of James Connolly on Women (1981- republished in 2016).
In 1970, Davison took part in the breaking of the Falls curfew, when several thousand women marched in protest. In the 1970s, she worked as assistant organiser and then full-time organiser for the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Madge was strong in her support for the republican ideals of the United Irishmen, and it was in Bodenstown, Co. Kildare, at the site of Wolfe Tone’s graveyard, that she met her future husband, John Hobbs, a communist from Dublin. Madge linked the Civil Rights campaign in America and Ireland when the CYM protested against the framing of Angela Davis on a murder charge.
Madge took part in and helped to organise the civil rights demonstration on Bloody Sunday in Derry, 1972 (she can be seen on television film, standing on the running board of the lorry). Along with others, she helped to organise the protest march in Newry the following week, and subsequently, she organised the placing of a memorial in Derry to those who were killed. When NICRA folded in 1977 she made sure that all the records were put in order and donated to the political collection in the Linen Hall Library. When her work with the NICRA finished she began to study law. She obtained a Law degree from Queen’s University and became a barrister. She was respected in the profession, standing out as a gifted advocate for human rights.
Towards the end of 1990 she took up employment with the Fair Employment Agency, but in January 1991 she was diagnosed with cancer. She died on 27 January 1991, at the early age of forty-one, leaving behind her husband John Hobbs and two beloved young sons Niall and Jonathan. Madge Davison was an outstanding communist, outstanding orator and excellent organiser. During her short life, she took part in many struggles and activities. She taught typing in Twinbrook, taught law in the Falls Women’s Centre, was an active member of the Irish Anti-Apartheid Movement, an adviser to the Rape Crisis Centre (Belfast), and a member of the Northern Ireland Women’s Rights Movement. Her comrades and friends will remember her for years to come. Concluding his funeral tribute, her friend Michael O’Riordan said: “Madge was motivated by a vision, a dream of a society in which there would be no sectarianism, no exploitation, one in which men and women would live in equality, one in which poverty would be abolished—in short, an Ireland free, united, and socialist.”[LW]