I had the great priviledge of meeting Margaret Thatcher on the afternoon of Tuesday, May 16, 1989, in the Prime Minister’s office in the House of Commons.

I was chairman of the Western Area Conservative Students and, not to put to fine a point on it, terrified; before going in to see her, we were held in an ante room for 20 minutes whilst she concluded her previous meeting.

When we were eventually let in we got that initial shock that anyone gets when they meet a living legend.

Firstly she was much smaller than you imagined, but she was fizzing with energy, rearranging furniture, serving tea and making sure we were all relaxed and at ease.

We then had an hour-long meeting with her where she listened to the opinion of a dozen or so 21-year-olds as though we were some great fountain of knowledge (which we weren’t!), asking questions and encouraging debate.

In our group of men there was one woman, who Mrs Thatcher made a special point of encouraging.

I suspect she knew better than anyone how difficult it was at the time for women to break into politics. Unbelievable as it now sounds, when she became leader of the Conservative Party many women did not have their own bank account.

Previous and subsequent to this meeting I saw Mrs Thatcher on public display and she was everything the public had come to expect of her, but this rather private meeting brought home to me that here was this towering political figure, showing what the public rarely saw — patience, kindness and tolerance.

Of course, some will not miss Mrs Thatcher and yet those of us who were fortunate to have met her got the briefest of glimpses of what an extraordinary woman she was.

Cllr Martyn Cox, Westhoughton North and Chew Moor