The founder of the Legal Advice Centre

Ann Waltuck was born in 1919. She was partly brought up in France then went to the Campden School for Girls. She trained for community service and did social work during the war. During the war she started work at University House in Victoria Park Square. This was an East End Community of Boys Club under the aegis of Repton School. She ran on her own what became the Legal Advice Centre. In due course the other aspects of University House outgrew their usefulness – there was still boxing there in the early 1970s making a most distracting noise over the head of the advisors. In 1979 the Legal Advice Centre set up as its own charity separate from University House.

She alone was responsible for the practical aspects of the Centre (or Bureau as it was then called). She gave most of the advice herself. It was her idea and responsibility to recruit barristers and solicitors to give more expert advice on alternate Wednesday evenings. Amongst some very distinguished lawyers was John Mortimer, who had a caricature of Ann in one of his plays (Journey Round my Father), several subsequent High Court Judges and Cherie Blair.

She loved the East End of London and its people and definitely thought of herself as an Eastender. She was adamant in her view that the inability to pay legal fees should not deprive those in the area of the best advice available.

Her working conditions in Victoria Park Square were bad. She had to go next door, to the Institute for Community Studies, for the lavatory and on more than one occasion buckets were needed to catch water from the leaking roof. In the mid 1980s the Centre moved into comparative luxury in Roman Road.

She had enormous practical knowledge gained from experience and often knew more than the Wednesday evening professionals. Ann would see a client during the day and if appropriate ask him to come back on a Wednesday evening – very often mainly because she felt that he did not believe what she had told him and wanted “a lawyer” to confirm it!

She was wonderful with clients – very firm and they loved it and her. “You know where you are with Miss Walters” (as her name was regularly interpreted) they used to say. She worked there for some 45 years and reluctantly retired on reaching 70. Towards the end Ann was honoured with an MBE and it is hard to think of anyone who deserved it more.

She died on 7th October 2003 and is much missed.