Born 12th August 1915, the youngest of five children, Elsie Cox contracted rheumatic fever at the age of eight which left her with a heart condition. Forced to spend lengthy periods of time in bed, she read extensively, particularly nineteenth century novels and poetry. At twelve, she took up the piano and eventually went on to qualify as a piano teacher, passing the LLCM examinations as an external student.
She came from a family of committed socialists, and her eldest brother was active in the Unemployed Workers Movement and a founder member of the Young Communist League, along with her sister Bessie. Elsie herself joined the Communist Party in 1936 and campaigned vigorously for many causes, from the fight against fascism in Spain to the Birmingham Council tenants rent strike in 1939.
In 1939 she married Martin Marshall, a GWR railwayman who shared her political views and her love of music and theatre. Together with Bessie they joined Dr Colin Bradsworth to form the Clarion Singers in 1940. During the war they performed political songs and opera in factory canteens, on bomb sites and in New Street’s Big Top as part of the Holidays at Home scheme. Their joint performances as Figaro and Susanna, Papageno and Papagena, MacHeath and Polly and Master and Mistress Ford were highly acclaimed. At the end of World War Two they were invited to become part of a small professional opera company but this would have involved leaving Clarion which neither of them was prepared to do. They were to continue to be leading members of the choir and politically active throughout their lives.
In 1966 Elsie was appointed as a music teacher at WyndcliffeJuniorSchool. There she used her skills and experience to enable socially deprived children to perform to a high standard comparable with that of pupils from some of the most privileged schools in the city. Alongside this Elsie resumed her piano teaching, developing deep affection for all her pupils and establishing lasting friendships with many of their families. She was still giving piano lessons well into her eighties.
Elsie was closely involved with the upbringing of all her five grandchildren. For them she was a source of endless fun, laughter and above all great love. She taught them all to play the piano and encouraged and advised them with their other interests. Those of them who were active in youth theatre could always rely on her to support them in learning and delivering their lines. In every school holiday they were sure to be invited to stay with her and to be taken on some imaginative and exciting outing. In her final years when she in turn sometimes sought help and consolation from them, she still remained their confidant and mentor as well as their very dear grandmother. Elsie remained loyal to both the re-founded Communist Party and the Morning Star. She died at the age of 93 years on 22nd March 2008.