Oonagh hailed as champion of women’s causes

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Oonagh Michaeliones.

A STRATFORD-UPON-AVON woman who was the first woman ever to be appointed director for the British Council of a country has died.

Oonagh Michaeliones, MBE, passed away peacefully on 22nd January, aged 93. She had lived in Stratford for the last 30 years having fallen in love with the town around the time of her retirement.

Oonagh’s family said this week that she ‘broke the glass ceiling’ in the Foreign Office in the 1960s by becoming the first woman ever to be appointed director for the British Council of a country — in this instance, Hong Kong.

The British Council was the cultural arm of the Foreign Office and in her capacity as director, Oonagh was responsible for promoting closer ties with other countries very often in the form of educational exchange visits and tours around the world by the Royal Shakespeare Company.

She was also British Council director in Finland, and once said to relatives she loved Finland for the snow after a sauna, and Hong Kong for its culinary delights.

Oonagh’s life also took her to China, Vietnam, Cambodia and Japan, and spoke Cantonese, Finnish, French and Welsh.

In Stratford she supported several charitable causes and was responsible for helping facilitate the many memorial benches in the town.

She organised the Cruse Bereavement Club, where recently bereaved people could meet new friends and discuss their loss if needs be.

She was also on the local police committee and a member of the Cambrian Society. Once she raised enough money to buy a cow for a village in Africa, as part of her ongoing commitment to that continent.