Published: 19 January, 2017
I FOUND Sybil Shine a fascinating mixture – shy, awkward at times, along with a sharp mind that could see the essence of a problem almost at a glance.
It was fitting that her funeral held on Friday at Golders Green crematorium, conducted by the Humanist Association, became a celebration of her life.
She was best known locally as a very conscientious Labour councillor for Somers Town in the 80s and 90s.
Her sister, Barbara Grahame, also a Westminster Labour councillor, described how Sybil, who died the day after her 81st birthday, had been evacuated at the beginning of the war at the age of four.
This may have had a traumatic effect on her life as she had been brought up entirely by her Yiddish-speaking grandmother.
She became a mature student, worked her way through the London School of Economics, and lectured mainly on housing, and the effect of living on estates designed by architects who were often out of touch with real people.
The chapel was packed for a ceremony at which many people told stories about Sybil’s rich life.
A questioner, an observer, Sybil, who lived in Primrose Hill, was in effect a born rebel, and was a thorn in the side of the establishment. A fellow Somers Town councillor Roger Robinson described her as the best kind of conscientious colleague, always concerned about the lives of her working-class constituents.
One speaker compared her to the “spiritually good” person in one of the great short stories by the Yiddish writer Sholem Aleichem.
Eerily, the ceremony ended with her voice filling the chapel through recorded messages left on her family’s phone saying hello in her distinctive style – “Hello, baby doll... You’re an angel... go on I’ll give you a big hug...”