'Heart of Gold': Tributes pour in for British runner who died in Dubai

'She would give you anything,' says one woman, who met Mary Taylor over 10 years ago

Mary Taylor and Rachel Murphy. Supplied photo
Mary Taylor and Rachel Murphy. Supplied photo

Lamya Tawfik

Published: Thu 19 Jan 2023, 2:57 PM

Last updated: Thu 19 Jan 2023, 4:31 PM

Dubai friends of the late British hairdresser and much-loved runner, Mary Taylor, have described her as “full of life” and with a “heart of gold”.

Taylor moved to Dubai in November to pursue a career as a hairdresser. On Christmas Day, she posted on one of Silsden’s Facebook groups, saying “Before long, I will be coming home for the annual Easter Egg Hunt.” Sadly, she was never able to make it. The 40-year-old passed away in Dubai.

Mary was known for cheering up her community during the pandemic by carrying out fancy dress runs in her village, according to the BBC. Since the announcement of her death, there has been an outpouring of tributes from her community, with many posting videos of Mary as she danced outside their windows.

Khaleej Times spoke to some of her friends in Dubai who paid tribute to their kind, fun-loving friend.

Rachel Murphy met Mary Taylor at a hairdresser salon in Leeds when they were both in their mid-twenties. A few years later Mary went travelling in Asia and Rachel was getting ready to move to Dubai. “During these years we were in touch on an ad hoc basis. She was very excited in September when she got in touch to tell me that she had a few job opportunities and that she would be moving to Dubai,” said Rachel, adding that she was always a social butterfly, mischievous and so full of life.

According to Rachel, Mary would automatically warm up to anyone she met. “On Christmas day brunch, someone put up a post saying that if you were going to be by yourself on Christmas day, a few random people were organizing one. There were around 8 to 10 who went out and didn’t know each other. And by the end of the day, I’m sure she would have been friends with all of them - she had that kind of personality,” said Rachel. “I will always love the way we always ended our conversations with ‘love you lots like jelly tots’.”

Even in the short period of time that she spent in Dubai, Rachel says she was sure she would have touched people’s lives. “Some people might have met her and not even know. She would give you anything,” she said, adding that she is definitely going to be missed by many people.

It is that giving spirit that made Mary special to all those around her. In addition to the pandemic fancy dress runs, Mary also did a special Christmas treat for her community a few years ago, Rachel recalls. “She would put an ‘elf on a shelf’ hidden in random places for children to find when they went to school in the morning. The kid who found the elf would get a Christmas present from her,” she said.

Mary Taylor and Gaelin Gray
Mary Taylor and Gaelin Gray

Gaelin Gray, another friend of Mary in Dubai said that she was legendary in her hometown of Silsden. “She was a keen runner and became well-known for her daily runs in fancy dress during Covid lockdown in 2020. Her aim was, primarily, to bring joy to the local children and raise money for the local hospital,” she said.

She met Mary 9 years ago when she came to Dubai on holiday with her young daughter. “We stayed in contact and followed each other’s lives on Facebook,” she said adding that when Mary decided to move to Dubai at the beginning of November 2022, she stayed with her for two months, before moving to her own apartment at the beginning of January.

Gaelin described Mary as being larger than life and someone “you’d never, ever forget, if you met her.” “She was crazy, fun, positive, and full of energy, with a heart of gold,” she said, adding that some of her fond memories with Mary is suntanning in the garden while listing to loud music on her “boom box”.

The BBC quoted her sister Joanne Edwards saying: "She was enjoying hairdressing [in Dubai]. She was running, swimming, and just genuinely very happy. From the messages that were exchanged between us, she was loving life and thoroughly enjoying it. It's very safe, and so we have no, absolutely no question over her safety there," she added.

Following the news of her demise, British MP Robbie Moore posted a tribute for Mary, who was recognized as one of Silsden’s UnSung Heroes in July 2002, on his Facebook page in which he said that this was “truly devastating news.” He also paid tribute to her pandemic run saying: “Mary loved Silsden and was incredibly passionate about her town.”

A spokesperson for the British Embassy on Wednesday said: "We are providing assistance to the family of a British woman who died in Dubai."


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