Mary Ann Mercer – 1883-1945

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Mary Mercer

Mary Mercer was both the first female and the first socialist mayor of Birkenhead. She was also the town’s first female alderman and also became a JP in 1929. She had been born in Newport, Shropshire and her father died when she was just three years old.

Mary, maiden name Mary Chetter, was proud of the fact that she had seen the difficult side of life as a child and considered that the experience better helped her to serve the people of the town.

She entered the nursing profession at the age of 18 and went on, later in life to do a great deal of private nursing. Her first experience of public sector working was when she moved to Belfast where she became a district visitor for the Dean of the City and it was here that she took the decision to join the Labour Party.

She married her husband Ernest, who was a newspaper correspondent, in 1912 and they moved to Birkenhead two years later. Initially they lived in Clarence Road, Tranmere and Mary was first elected to the Town Council for Argyle Ward in 1919, becoming the town’s mayor just five years later in November 1924. Earlier that year she had been invited by the Labour Party to stand as their candidate in the Parliamentary election for the Fairfield constituency in Liverpool but she was defeated by the Conservative candidate.

She lost her council seat in 1932, being beaten by the Conservative candidate but returned almost immediately, being elected to a vacant seat in the same ward. She also stood in the 1935 General Election but was beaten by the Liberal candidate Graham White.

During her year of office as mayor, Mary unveiled the war memorial in Hamilton Square and also the structure known as the Great Red Stone at Cannon Hill in Birkenhead’s Upper Park which celebrated the 1917 Eisteddfod held in Birkenhead. She was also invited by Lord Derby to the official opening of the Runcorn Bridge by King George V. When in London in 1938 on Council business, Mary was invited on to the BBC radio programme ‘In Town Tonight’ to speak about her experiences as a female mayor.

Mary, known as Molly to her family, died aged 62 in September 1945 a greatly loved and respected servant of Birkenhead. At the time of her death, she was living at number 103 Norman Street Birkenhead and that home now has a blue plaque mounted above the front door.

The Friends discovered during 2018 when a member of Mary’s family contacted us to visit the grave that just two weeks after her funeral, her husband married his mistress!