Mrs Whitehawk honoured

3 weeks ago Fri 5th Nov 2021

The life of community activist Faith Matyszak-Gander – known to many simply as ‘Mrs Whitehawk’ - was celebrated on a bus tour of her favourite places in Brighton and Hove last Sunday (31 October), on what would’ve been her 90th birthday.  

­­Faith was awarded an MBE in 2007 for her volunteering and community work, which included helping to raise £1 million for Crew Club, a youth centre in Whitehawk, and working hard for Brighton and Hove Black Women’s Group, Brighton & Hove Racial Harassment Forum, the Trust for Developing Communities, and the Brighton Unemployed Family Centre, amongst others.  

Mrs Whitehawk sadly died in 2015 and a Brighton & Hove bus was named after her in 2020. 

Friends and family and Brighton & Hove Buses’ colleagues got together on the bus bearing her name to visit places that were significant for Faith, mostly where she lived or worked, while her daughter Zena did a commentary on her mum’s life.

Stops included the old bathing machine at Dukes Mound; the Royal Sussex Hospital, where she worked for 30 years; and Watney’s Brewery, now Churchill Square. They also visited the site of the old isolation hospital, Foredown Hospital, where Faith’s infant son Andy was admitted after contracting polio.

It was an emotional day for her daughter, Zena Barton, who spoke about her mum’s life as the bus travelled through the city, with Faith’s beloved MBE taking pride of place next to driver Michael John. 

“It was lovely, a really good day. Everybody said they enjoyed it and they learned a lot about my mum. I want to thank the bus company for arranging it. I told a few funny stories about things that had happened,” said Zena. 

Zena recounted how her mum got stranded in the grounds of Buckingham Palace after being presented with her MBE by the Queen. The limousine hired for her broke down and had to be attached to a police Range Rover with jump leads to get it moving again.  

The young people at the Crew Club later raised £70 to buy Faith a replica MBE that she could wear every day. 

Zena said her mum would’ve loved the bus trip, “She always caught the bus until she wasn’t physically able to any more. She went everywhere on the bus.” 

Zena is currently writing a book about her mum’s life, using the notes and stories her mum left her.