Sunday, 11 October 2009

Pat's legacy

I had some sad news this afternoon.
Pat Kneen, widow of the Manx Death With Dignity campaigner Patrick Kneen, died recently.
I shared some history with the Kneens, as I was secretary to their campaign. Indeed I also had to campaign for charges of assisting a suicide to be dropped against Pat. They were scary days, as my job wasn’t too secure either, but sometimes things come along which have to be done, and this was one of them.
Pat really was the unlikeliest political campaigner I’ve ever met. While Patrick had a long background in the Manx Labour Party which immunised him to the lies, backstabbings, bigotry and general corruption of Manx life, Pat was a genteel retired schoolteacher who only moved here when they met and married, after both had been widowed once.
Not the kind of person you expect the police to come for mob-handed in a dawn raid. And not the kind of person who could have served a decade in jail if bigotry and corruption had triumphed, as it usually does over here.
Shortly after Patrick’s death, before the real nastiness kicked off, she told me and another friend that the hate, ignorance and dishonesty of local evangelicals towards Patrick’s polite, public-minded efforts had made her mind up.
It may have been silly things like Hospice staff refusing Patrick (who ran the islands leading cancer support group at the time) a chance to sit in their garden after an exhausting session at Nobles Hospital. Or maybe the anonymous midnight phonecalls saying, in a distinctly threatening tone, they would be ‘prayed for’.
Whatever, but she was hopping mad, and a week or two after Patrick’s funeral had made her mind up. This tiny lady was not going to let priests and politicians bury her husband’s work by sheer apathy.
What happened next was totally unexpected. The island’s international reputation sank to a new low because of it, though I’m proud to be amongst the few that showed the world we’re not all scum. You can read about all that at
Still, we won, had some fun doing it, and may have invented a whole new style of campaigning in the process. On the other hand, Pat Kneen was (unsurprisingly) so drained by the whole thing she upped sticks and never came back to the island, though she never forgot my family and sent cards regularly.
She’ll be missed, but her legacy to the folk I love most is a simple but effective message.
Don't get serious. Get happy.
Laugh ignorance off the planet.

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