My husband, Mark Kinghorn, who has died of cancer aged 58, spent his career working with people with learning difficulties and mental health issues. He constantly challenged the injustices that many of them faced, particularly those living in London and Edinburgh.
He was brought up near Hawick, on the Scottish borders, where he was from a long line of shepherds whose housing and livelihoods had always depended on the whims of the land-owning aristocracy.
Mark’s family had to move home many times and he attended several primary schools. Those experiences shaped him first in a fierce desire not to perpetuate the pattern, then in an appreciation of the history and politics that underlay them. Over time he turned a deep anger into a dedication to socialist politics.
Mark was born in Jedburgh, one of four children of Rea, a shepherd in Hawick, and Bett, who kept the home farm. When he left Hawick, in 1979, he spent a year as an unlikely business studies student in Edinburgh and then went to Thames Polytechnic (now the University of Greenwich) in London, where he could embrace literature, history and politics. He was active during the miners’ and print workers’ strikes and was a union steward for Unison for 35 years.
In London he was also able to live his life in music, which culminated with singing in a group formed with some college friends, the Love Act. Nearly 30 years later he was both surprised and delighted to see the band, along with a picture of him wearing a pearly king jacket, featured in a Guardian article that appeared to somehow link them to the birth of indie music.
Mark and I met in London in the mid-1980s, in the early days of the Care in the Community programme, when we both worked in one of the first re-provisioning teams closing a long-stay hospital. None of us really knew what we were doing, but Mark had a natural ability to take vulnerable people as they came, to listen and to support them in making decisions that would help them leave behind the years of incarceration and build new lives. We married in 1987 and Mark threw himself into family life; he adored being a father.
We moved to Edinburgh, where he completed his master’s degree in social work, became a social worker and then a mental health officer, transforming his natural empathy and ability into a discerning and thoughtful professionalism.
His life was filled with family, friendships and his great passions – politics, music and cricket. Over the years he never really changed, he just grew into himself and had the loveliest way of living, enjoying every encounter.
After one such chance meeting on the street during an Edinburgh festival, the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy sent him a poem that was later read at his funeral.
He never let life diminish him, even during the most challenging of recent times and truly believed that with compassion, friendship, communication and organisation, anything from personal challenge to political injustice could and would be overcome.
Mark is survived by me, our children, Alice and Joe, his mother, brother, William, and sister, Jane. His other brother, Alan, predeceased him.