Former May & Baker worker's family plea after asbestos linked death

millicent walsh

Millicent Walsh (right) worked as a secretary in the engineering department at May & Baker. She was a member of May & Baker’s Amateur Musical and Dramatic Society. - Credit: Courtesy of the Walsh family

A family is appealing for help after a former Dagenham factory worker died of asbestos related lung cancer.

After struggling with her breathing for a number of years, Millicent Catherine Walsh, who was known as Millie, died in December 2019, aged 84.

It wasn't until a telephone inquest hearing on April 4 last year at Walthamstow Coroner's Court that the family discovered the grandmother died from respiratory failure caused by metastatic mesothelioma and pulmonary asbestosis.

Mesothelioma and asbestosis are caused by breathing in asbestos dust and fibres.

It is believed Millie could have been exposed to asbestos while working for May & Baker in Dagenham.

The family is making an industrial disease compensation claim on her behalf but need the help of anyone who remembers the presence of asbestos in the factory.

Her son Eugene said: "Mum’s slow deterioration was noticed by all her children and grandchildren.

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"Despite encouragement, the sedentary life cycle she fell into couldn’t be broken as she progressively felt more unwell. She was less inclined to seek help and mobility issues, because of her breathing, exacerbated the situation. It was very hard to watch.

"We only discovered she had mesothelioma from the coroner's findings after tissue samples were taken after mum passed. When we were told, we were already grieving and we had already had the funeral, but it was still a shock. We felt upset that she may have suffered more than necessary."

Millicent Walsh

Millicent is on the left sitting on her husband Edward's knee in this scene from a production staged by May & Baker’s Amateur Musical and Dramatic Society. - Credit: Courtesy of the Walsh family

Millie met her husband, Edward, while working at May & Baker. She worked for the company from the age of 16 during the 1950s as a secretary in the engineering department. He worked in the laboratories and they were fellow members of the May & Baker’s Amateur Musical and Dramatic Society.

The couple married in 1959 at the Holy Family Church in Oxlow Lane.

Eugene added: “They were together for the best part of 60 years and dad is feeling the hole in his life which mum has left. We have had episodes of him calling for mum in his sleep and upon waking."

If you have memories of working at May & Baker in Dagenham and the presence of asbestos, or know someone who did and developed breathing problems, call Jan Garvey at the National Asbestos Helpline on 0800 043 6635.