A tribute to our founder, Peggy Henderson MBE

This International Women’s Day we’d like to honour our founder, Mrs Peggy Henderson. Born on 5th September 1913 in Preston, Peggy served in the WAAF during World War 2. She set up The Society for Abandoned Animals in 1966 in response to the vast numbers of pets that were being dumped and abandoned during the mass housing clearance in Hulme, Manchester. Joined by friends and local residents, Peggy worked tirelessly to find permanent, loving homes for these homeless animals. The SAA relocated to Buxton in 1969, then from 1976 operated privately as a network of foster homes before coming to Mosley Acre Farm in Stretford in 1994. Peggy made the move to Stretford, along with 79 cats in her care and her dog, Smiler, on Christmas Eve 1994. The shelter remains on this site today. The bungalow which now houses The SAA office was once Peggy’s home where she lived until her death in 2004 at the age of 91. Peggy dedicated her life to animals and on passing left her own four rescue cats, Jaffer the Gaffer, Little Puck, Eddie and Sooty (who remained onsite and were loved and cared for by volunteers as ‘sanctuary cats’).



A couple of Peggy’s friends have shared their memories of her:


Peggy Henderson MBE


A remarkable woman, born in Preston in 1913 (Mary Margaret Wade). At age 7 her family move to Liverpool where she attends the ‘Grove St School’ for daughters of the middle class! At 18 she goes to the ‘Royal Holloway’ in London gaining degrees in French, German and English. At 22 back in Liverpool she is secretary to Randolph Churchill during his election campaign as an MP. She then went to Guernsey teaching languages. 

As a feminist she joins the suffragette movement, forming the first union for women teachers.

When the 2nd World War breaks out she enlists into the RAF doing 20 years service, becoming a squadron leader and is awarded her MBE for her part in updating the RAF Kings Regulations. 

During this time she marries (at 40 years old) George Henderson. Tragically less than 7 years later he dies of a heart attack, Peggy’s life was shattered! 


At 50 years old her ‘2nd life’ starts devoting over 40 years to animal welfare. She moves back north when Hulme Manchester Housing are being demolished. With untold numbers of abandoned cats and dogs, Peggy is recruited to help and the SAA is formed. Members using their own homes to house abandoned and stray cats and dogs. In 1992 with a legacy and the sale of members homes, including Peggy’s, and a mortgage of £90,000 Mosley Acre Farm, Stretford is bought. At this time Peggy’s house in Rusholme housed 79 cats which moved with her to the sanctuary. It was a place where she was happy and fulfilled. No more walking to Yew Tree vets with a cat or 2 in an old pram!


Her wish to end her life at her bungalow at the sanctuary and that her body be be donated to medical science was fulfilled. She sadly died on 15th September 2004 and her ashes are buried at her beloved sanctuary.


                ~ John Begley 


I met Peggy when I started working at the Society for Abandoned Animals. She was in her 80’s at that time, and the strength, courage and determination which had been requisite qualities throughout her life were still very evident in her character. She couldn’t be bothered with fuss and nonsense, and wished only to be surrounded by people who showed kindness and compassion towards animals. Animals were equals in her eyes, deserving of everything we wish for ourselves. She’d shared her home with countless numbers of animals over the years. I often walked in to find cats or dogs licking from her plate while she was still eating her meal. I also remember her not batting an eye lid when she opened a kitchen drawer and found a mouse had made a home in there! I loved that way about her. Despite reservations other people might have had about the way she lived, she was brave enough to live her own life without concerning herself about what others thought. Given what she had achieved, that attitude must have been the force throughout her whole life.


For as long as her mobility allowed, she continued to trot around the sanctuary, randomly calling out for staff to tell her what’s what. It must have been really hard for her to let go of the sanctuary reigns when she’d spent years working towards establishing it.


There was a beautiful mischief about Peggy, and she had a sparkle in her eye right to the very end. I feel really fortunate to have been a part of her life, she was a true one-off and a real inspiration.


We should all be a little more Peggy 🙂


I will remember her fondly, always – Anita xxx



Though no longer with us, Peggy’s spirit lives on at the sanctuary and through every animal that we rehome.

“I’ve often said if I could no longer have animals I’d either get drunk or go to New Zealand” – Peggy Henderson

In loving memory of Mary Margaret Henderson (nee Wade) 5th September 1913 – 15th September 2004.