TRIBUTES have been paid to a popular community figure, campaigner and one of The Mail's most prolific letter writers.

Maureen Harris, 82, passed away peacefully with her family around her on Monday.

Mrs Harris, of Raleigh Street, Barrow, was the wife of the late Barrow Rugby League legend, John 'Dinks' Harris. They were together for more than 50 years.

The loyal supporter of The Mail had her popular letters published for decades. She covered various social issues, such as protecting the NHS, something she also campaigned about.

She also wrote about local history topics, including her fond memories of being an evacuee from Salford and going to live in Cark with the Parrington family, who she adored.

Mrs Harris, nee Daly, is survived by 10 great grandchildren, seven grandchildren and four children, Terry Benson MBE, Shauna Adamson, Sharon Harris and Lauren Tyson. She also had two late children, Michael Benson and Jayne Richardson.

A quote by Mrs Harris, an avid reader and writer dons the wall of Barrow Library, it says: "Take anything away, but don't take my books".

For some 30 years Mrs Harris has exchanged letters and Christmas cards with explorer Sir Ranulph Fiennes. When Sir Ranulph, known as Ran to Mrs Harris, last visited Barrow he asked if Maureen had bought his book which she produced for signing and he told his team that Maureen did not need to pay.

Mrs Harris also received a reply from Pope John Paul II after writing to the Pontiff when her late daughter Jayne had been critically ill in hospital.

Mrs Harris had also campaigned about nuclear waste and she once laid under a bus as part of a protest.

For years Mrs Harris, a former hospital kitchen worker, had been a Labour supporter and helped with campaigning.

She was a former pupil of Holker School and Ulverston Grammar School.

Paying tribute, her children said: "You could write a book about our Mam, with all the things she had done. She would say: 'I've had a life and a half'. She really did live life to the full.

"She would stick up for anyone, she would take the world on. She was a very strong character, she said that was the Irish in her.

"She loved writing and reading. She would write letters for The Mail, to friends and to celebrities of the time.

"She'd say 'I was blessed to go to Cark and I've had a lovely life'."

Her family said, up until her recently short illness she had been "as fit as a flea", and had only even been in hospital for a knee and arm injury. She had given birth to six children at home, delivering two without a midwife.

Mrs Harris' funeral service is to take place at St Mary of Furness Catholic Church, in Duke Street, Barrow, on a date and time to be confirmed. It will be followed by a private service at Thorncliffe Crematorium.

'You could always rely on her'

Good friend Jim Hamezeian, a former Socialist People's Party councillor in Barrow, said: "Maureen was a remarkable lady. I knew her for more than 30 years. She and Dinks were at the forefront of campaigning, especially about NHS services cuts.

"Maureen was straight talking. I will miss her dearly, she was my closest confidant and great friend. You could always rely on her. She had broad shoulders, she was always there for you.

"She was a wonderful family lady."

John Calvert, of 82, of Barrow, also went to Cark during the Second World War with his family from Barrow Island. He was in the same class at Holker School with Mrs Harris and they remained good friends thereafter.

Mr Calvert said: "Maureen was lovely and a good friend to me. We were friends since childhood after being in Cark together.

"She was a very generous lady and she had a real social conscience, she was concerned about injustices. She was never afraid of authority.

"Her popular letters to The Mail were very well read and debated."

Maureen Harris - in her own words

“I arrived at Cark with my soap, hairbrush, embroidered nighties and a box of hankies

and my own cup.

“I could read and write and play the piano. I didn’t know there were schools as we had

tutors coming in. I’d never seen a bus or a train.

“So how would I go on at Cark in a little cottage. I loved it. I always say, and I mean it, I became more Cark than people born and bred there.

“My late husband, Dinks Harris, always said I never settled in Barrow because my

heart will always be at Cark.

“I go to Cark such a lot. I see blokes in the pub who I knew as a child, all turned out as

lovely husbands, dads and granddads.

“The girl who was one of my first friends phones me almost every week.

“Everyone will know the film, The King’s Speech, about the king who stammered.

“When I first went to Cark someone noticed I had a slight stammer.

“Someone knew of a lady in Grange who gave elocution lessons. Off I went to Miss

Wells and it was two shillings (10p) an hour."

It turned out the young Maureen had been talking in a way to support her brother – who did have a slight stammer.

“I loved my elocution lessons until Miss Wells left.

“I always remember her telling me ‘the word is lavatory not toilet’ and it is ‘where is

it’ not ‘where’s it at’

“We had such lovely people in Cark, Flookburgh and Holker."