Sally Peltier, reggae-loving mayor who fell in love with Belize

Her home was full of animals, including a squirrel that lived in a pocket and a wild, badger-like creature called a grison

Thursday, 25th February 2021 — By Dan Carrier

cnjFeb25-2021 Image 2021-02-25 at 02.40.59 (26)

Sally Peltier during her year as mayor of Camden

A DEEP passion for equality was a guiding principle throughout Sally Peltier’s life.

Sally, who has died aged 85, not only fought tirelessly against injustice in her role as a teacher, Camden councillor, and political activist – but a lifelong love of the natural world made her an environmental and animal advocate, too.

It meant she was as likely to be found with a pet squirrel in a pocket as a copy of a political tome. Sally was born in Buckinghamshire.

Her father, Eric Anson, was a farm manager and due to his job, the family moved frequently during her younger years. Her childhood on farms, surrounded by domestic livestock and wildlife, meant it was natural she would study zoology at Southampton University.

After graduating, she became a research scientist at the London Hospital and it was here she met a lab technician and black community activist Charles Peltier: the pair fell in love, and went on to have two children, David and Duncan.

The couple lived in Notting Hill in the late 1950s and into the 1960s, a period when the area saw the far right try to stir up racial tensions and slum housing offered little protection for tenants.

Sally Peltier with her husband Charles

After David was born, they moved to Leverton Street, Kentish Town.

Sally changed jobs, working at Torriano Infants School as a teacher.

She paid attention to disadvantaged young people, running breakfast and after school clubs. These experiences, coupled with her political beliefs, prompted her to stand as a Labour councillor.

She was elected in 1974, but a year later Charles died suddenly. Despite being widowed with a young family, she became a valuable addition to the leading Labour group serving on various committees and the Camden Sports Council.

She also served as mayor for a year.

Sally became involved with the National Council for the Unmarried Mother and her Child, the Camden Teachers Tenants’ Co-operative, The Camden Law Centre and other pressure groups and charities. In retirement, she moved from Camden to Belize.

She had collected stamps from far off locations all her life and it was a window into a world she wanted to explore. She travelled to China, Africa and New Zealand before heading to the Caribbean.

She particularly liked Belize and its un-Americanised rural life style. Settling in a rainforest village, the landscape provided her passions of plants and animals while the musical culture fitted her tastes.

Sally loved Ska, enjoying blues parties in 1960s Notting Hill, and her favourite music was reggae. Belize offered all of this.

Her wish to see the right thing done never went away, as the following story illustrates. One time in Belize, she needed her car fixed. A mechanic fitted a new part – but it still did not solve the problem work.

She refused to pay him. A few days later, the mechanic appeared at her door, brandishing a gun, and demanding payment.

Sally lived in a community wracked with violence and gun crime, but the sight of the angry garage owner on her doorstep, threatening her with a weapon, only steeled her resolve. He was persuaded of her consumer rights and left empty-handed.

Sally had recognised Belize’s wealth and poverty, its mix of paradise, corruption and violence.

She could never turn a blind eye to injustice, and after emigrating she became involved in campaigns over river pollution and domestic violence.

And her home was full of animals, including a squirrel that lived in a pocket and a wild, badger-like creature called a grison.

Then there was Smiley Culture the Rottweiler and Right ’Ere, the parrot. Friends and family speak of her compassionate nature – and the voiceless creatures who felt comfortable in her company are a simple sign of the love she had to share.

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