Family’s cancer appeal to former Forest factory workers

By Forester Reporter   |   Reporter   |
Tuesday 14th June 2022 6:00 am
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The family of Margaret Wilks are seeking answers about her death from cancer.

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THE husband and daughter of a woman who died from asbestos-related cancer are appealing to her former workmates for help to establish how she contracted the terminal illness.

Margaret Wilks, 77, a former factory worker from Yorkley, died just four months after being diagnosed with mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung associated with asbestos exposure.

She had instructed asbestos-related disease specialists at law firm Irwin Mitchell to investigate the source of her illness and establish whether she could have encountered asbestos at work.

Following her death her husband David, 79, and daughter Melissa Wilks, 42, are now continuing the investigation in Margaret’s memory.

In January this year, Assistant Gloucestershire Coroner Roland Wooderson recorded a narrative conclusion confirming that she died from mesothelioma and believed she had been exposed to asbestos in her employment.

Her family have joined with their legal team at Irwin Mitchell to appeal for details from Margaret’s former work colleagues on the conditions she would have faced during her career.

They are keen to trace anyone who worked at the J Allen Rubber Company, later known as the London Rubber Company.

Margaret worked at the firm’s factories in Lydney and Whitecroft as a packer and then later as charge hand, from 1959 until 1980.

Asbestos-related disease lawyer Rebecca Buxton said that by coming forward, they could help David and Melissa get the answers and closure they need.

Ms Buxton said: ““Mesothelioma  is a terrible disease and Margaret’s family are understandably still in  shock following her sudden death.

“Her diagnosis and death has left them  struggling to come to terms with an unexpected event that has turned  their world upside down.

“Despite her illness Margaret was determined to get at the truth behind her illness and we’re determined to support David  and Melissa as they continue the search for answers in her memory.

“While nothing can make up for Margaret’s death people coming forward with information could make all the difference to the investigation and at least provide David and Melissa with the answers and closure they deserve.”

Mrs Wilks left school at 15 and went to work for for J Allen Ltd in Lydney, later moving to the firm’s other factory in Whitecroft.

At the Lydney factory, she worked in a large, open-plan packing area as a packer before being promoted to chargehand.

The room was half the size of a football pitch, which allowed for hundreds of staff – including packers and maintenance workers –  to be working alongside her.

Following her diagnosis, Margaret told her legal team how she believed several other colleagues went on to develop an asbestos  related disease.

Margaret’s sister Gaynor also worked at the factory for a short period of time.

She said that the Lydney factory  was old and in disrepair so she was happy  to move to the newer Whitecroft factory  in the mid-1970s.

There she packed rubber items such as gloves and  balloons, which may have contained industrial talc, leaving in 1980, when her daughter Melissa was born.

Margaret Wilks
Margaret Wilks on her wedding day in 1968 (Tindle )

David and Margaret married in 1968 and had a full and active life together. 

Margaret enjoyed playing skittles and knitting  in her spare time. She loved all sports and also enjoyed watching them on TV. Margaret had no grandchildren and Melissa was her only child.

Fit  and healthy prior to her mesothelioma diagnosis, Margaret rarely  visited a doctor, until, in the Spring of 2021, she  started to lose weight and suffer from breathlessness. She was admitted  to hospital and stayed there for five weeks between May and June.

Following tests she was diagnosed with mesothelioma last August. She died on 19 December, 2021, with David and Melissa by  her side.

David said: “Margaret was a wonderful wife and mum and it’s still so difficult to accept that she’s no longer with us.

“Margaret had been fit and well all her life, so her illness and mesothelioma diagnosis came as a tremendous shock. We’d barely had time to come to terms with it, before she passed away.

“We  had been told about mesothelioma but could hardly believe things could  change so quickly. Margaret was a practical woman  and immediately set to work to find out how she could have come into  contact with asbestos. However, she went from being an active person who  enjoyed going out and about and visiting the shops to one who was  reliant on others for care.

“If anyone employed at either factory recalls Margaret or the working conditions and could get in touch with us that would  be a great help.

“Melissa has lost her mother and I have lost my wife and my best friend. Life is never going to be the same for us, but  we want to honour Margaret’s memory by understanding how she came to contract this terrible disease.”

Anyone who has any information that could help is asked to contact Rebecca Buxton at [email protected]  or call 0117 926 1574.

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