Widow has been serving Christmas dinner to the homeless for 82 YEARS

Is this Britain’s longest-serving volunteer? Widow, 98, has been serving Christmas dinner to homeless people for 82 YEARS

  • Peggy Maskrey was 16 years old when she started volunteering in Birkenhead 
  • This year she was serving Christmas turkey at Charles Thompson’s Mission 
  • Mrs Maskrey was working during WWII, the moon landing and a World Cup win 

Peggy Maskrey, now 98, was 16 when she started helping out at Charles Thompson’s Mission in Birkenhead, in Merseyside, in 1928

A widow has been serving Christmas dinner to the homeless every year for the last 82 years, potentially making her Britain’s longest-serving volunteer.

Peggy Maskrey, now 98, was aged 16 when she started helping out at Charles Thompson’s Mission in Birkenhead, in Merseyside, in 1928.

She met her late husband Teddy there and has been working during WWII, a moon landing, a World Cup win and through 16 different Prime Ministers.

In February this year Prince Charles handed her an MBE at Buckingham Palace, for her ‘selfless services to the people of Birkenhead’.

She is still volunteering twice-weekly and was in on Christmas Day serving the festive turkey dinner today.

The widow and mother-of-one said: ‘I absolutely love it here, helping those who need it.

‘I’ve seen a lot of changes; it’s very much a home-from-home for me.

‘Christmas is the time when I am needed the most. It’s great being part of a team that helps to make at least some difference to people’s lives.

‘Over the years I’ve seen young boys coming and then returning as grown men to help out.

‘I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. And I still enjoy it. I’m here two days every week and I love it.

In February this year Prince Charles handed her an MBE at Buckingham Palace, for her ‘selfless services to the people of Birkenhead’

‘I used to come here every day and I wish I still could – but while the spirit is willing my body is weaker!

‘I’d be broken-hearted if I ever had to stop coming here altogether and helping out because it’s been my life.

‘I just love helping people and seeing how they appreciate it – well, some of them appreciate it!’

Mrs Maskrey said it is important the mission helps everyone in society, which is what makes it special.

She added: ‘The important thing is they need help and we want to make sure they get it.

 ‘I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. And I still enjoy it. I’m here two days every week and I love it,’ Mrs Maskrey said


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Mrs Maskrey first arrived at the Charles Thompson’s Mission in Merseyside in 1928 (undated photograph)

‘We accept anyone who comes through that door. If we have clothes or food, we will give it to them.

‘I’ve always made the tea over the years and I’ll always be here – they’ll have to carry me out!’

Born Marjorie Monaghan in 1920, she was nicknamed ‘Peggy’ aged two by her uncle – and the name stuck.

Looking back she reflected: ‘I started coming to all the children’s meetings from the age of eight and there would be about 500 kids turning up.

‘Every time we came at Christmas we would queue up and be given a bun, a toy and a bag of fruit and sweets.

‘Years later I met my husband Teddy at the mission and we started courting.

‘We married in 1944 but I still kept on helping out here. They were happy times.’

The widow and mother-of-one said: ‘I absolutely love it here, helping those who need it’

The mission was founded by Christian worker Charles Thompson in 1892 and local businessmen gave donations to help needy families.

His death in 1903 prompted Queen Alexander – wife to King Edward VII – to write from Buckingham Palace of her ‘sadness at the death of a man who had done so much for others.’

His daughter Annie took over and she was also awarded the MBE in 1953 and died in 1965.

Peggy retired from her 9-5 waitress job aged 70 but before then would would work a full day then spend her hours afterwards helping out at the mission – especially after losing husband Teddy and son David, who died 10 years ago aged 55.

Mission manager Bernie Frost, who first got involved 13 years ago as a volunteer, said: ‘Peggy doesn’t realise she makes an enormous contribution.

‘She is faithful and steadfast – and she’s not to be messed with.

‘This Mission has been operating here for 126 years and Peggy has been such a big part of its history.’

Providing food, furniture, clothes, healthcare, counselling services and even toys, the mission helps people living below the breadline.

Fellow volunteer Amy Stanley said: ‘Over the years Peggy’s changed the lives of so many.

‘She inspires us every single day and still has no plans to retire.’

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Widow in legal battle with stepson after he ‘threw her out of home’

Wealthy property investor’s widow, 57, is locked in bitter legal battle with stepson she helped raise after he ‘threw her out of their £450,000 home “like a dog”‘

  • Diane De Marzo, 57, says she lent £150k to Sonny Ball to help him find a home
  • Says it was for him and his girlfriend, now wife, Leahann, 33, after his father died 
  • The plan was she would share family property with them, Mrs De Marzo claims
  • But she says she was ‘thrown out’ of the house by Sonny and is now demanding that he give her the money back – but he claims the money was his inheritance

Diane De Marzo, 57, (pictured outside court) says she lent £150,000 to Sonny Ball, 33, to help him find a home for him and his girlfriend after his father died

A wealthy property investor’s widow who claims she was thrown out of her home ‘like a dog’ by her stepson has taken him to court.

Diane De Marzo, 57, says she lent £150,000 to Sonny Ball, 33, to help him find a home for him and his girlfriend and now wife, Leahann, 33, after his father died.

Mrs De Marzo claims the plan was she would share the property with them – but she says Sonny then threw her out of the house in Abbey Wood, Kent.

Demanding they sell the house and give her the money back, she now claims she was ‘scammed’ by Sonny, who she had always considered her ‘boy’.

‘He said I was like his ‘mum’ and he threw me out like a dog,’ Mrs De Marzo told Central London County Court.

‘In my eyes, he was ‘my boy’. His dad always believed he would do right by his family.’

But Sonny and his now wife say nothing could be further from the truth, that the money was a gift and represented his inheritance from his dad, Michael Ball.


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Mrs De Marzo has no right to any part of the three-bed £450,000 property as it is theirs alone, said the couple’s barrister Lina Mattsson.

She had been allowed to stay with them when she was in need, but was ‘obsessed’ with his father Michael Ball’s death to the point she was asked to leave.

But Sonny and his now wife Leahann (both pictured outside court) say that the money was a gift and represented his inheritance from his dad, Michael Ball

‘They were finding it more and more difficult to live with Mrs De Marzo,’ said the barrister.

‘She was obsessed with how Michael Ball had died, claiming it was murder or suicide. She talked about the circumstances of his death all the time.

‘Sonny was finding it very difficult to cope with the tension at home. He tried to avoid her, staying away.

‘The situation was becoming unbearable and, on 23 May 2015, they asked Mrs De Marzo to leave the property.’

Ms Mattsson said that it was only after that row that Mrs De Marzo started claiming Sonny had ‘stolen her money’ and that she had a claim to the house.

‘She turned Sonny’s younger sisters against him, telling them that he had stolen their money,’ she continued

The house which is at the centre of a dispute between the Balls and Mrs De Marzo

‘She emailed Sonny and Leahann, attaching an accident report with horrible photographs of Sonny’s dead father.’

But in her evidence, Mrs De Marzo – who has known Sonny since he was five years old – insisted that the money was not a gift.

Had she given £150,000 to Sonny, it would have meant less ultimately going to her husband’s four other children, three of whom he had with her.

‘I need to look after all the children,’ she told Judge Simon Monty QC. ‘Sonny can’t just have £150,000 all to himself.’

She said when the property was bought, she had insisted that Sonny and Leahann draw up wills to ensure the £150,000 went back to her if they died first.

Her barrister, Piers Hill, said the arrangement had always been that Mrs De Marzo would live in the property with the couple.

She paid the broadband bill for a year and funded an extension to the driveway so her car could fit, he said.

But Leahann Ball insisted that the £150,000 was Sonny’s inheritance and that her step-mother-in-law has no right to the house.

‘If she had wanted the property to be jointly owned, then that’s what it would have been,’ she said. ‘We would have gone to buy a house three ways.

‘She wanted to see Sonny settled, it was what his dad wanted. By giving him the £150,000, she didn’t have to worry about him anymore.’

The court heard Mrs De Marzo and Michael Ball moved to Spain in 2006, where Mr Ball owned a string of properties.

Sonny initially went with them but returned to England in 2007 and now lives with Leahann in the disputed property in Abbey Wood.

His father, who died in a road accident in 2013, owned a large family villa, a rental house and two beachside apartments in southern Spain, plus a flat in Kent.

Judge Monty will rule on the case at a later date.

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