The late Baroness Boothroyd has fascinated me for as long as I have followed British politics, and hers was among the deaths I most dreaded.
Just last October, with my newly-registered library card, I took out her autobiography. There are eighty pages before she actually becomes an MP (and she goes into detail of her multiple failed attempts), describing her childhood in impoverished Dewsbury, then her time as a Tiller girl, then going into politics as a secretary to two Labour MPs, then going overseas to work for JFK. Even when she gets into parliament, her struggles are as within her own party as against the others – this being the age of entryism by Militant, which she was instrumental in rooting out.
Before the release of the 2018 parliamentary portrait series ,(and note that her image is the one used on the PDS blog) Boothroyd was one of the many prominent politicians for whom I struggled long to find a free photograph to use on Wikipedia. The only one on which I could lay my hands was a poor-quality screenshot from President Obama’s speech in Westminster Hall in 2011, published on the White House channel and thus public domain. The baroness is shown looking the wrong way, sandwiched awkwardly between George Osborne and Douglas Alexander. For the top (indeed, only) illustration in a prominent online biography it just wasn’t good enough.
The other big challenge was her coat of arms – one of my earliest such works. Unlike her successor Michael Martin, Boothroyd’s arms were widely photographed and shown online. Recreating the lozenge visually was easy enough, though it wasn’t until years later that I tracked down the text of the blazon to go with it. My first attempt was not well-received by the residents of r/heraldry, so it was one of the few of my graphics which I completely remade.
I never got to see how the community (or anyone else) viewed my second attempt, for within hours of her death being announced another user, ProfAuthor, had replaced it with his own vector graphic. It is technically superior, of course, but still it is disappointing to know that my own efforts are made redundant. Something similar happened with Sir Ernest Shackleton the last time he was in the news.