Community stalwart Peggy Duigan dies aged 88

One of the leading lights of Norfolk politics, who dedicated decades of her life to the community, has died at the age of 88.

Peggy Duigan, who served at all levels of local government, was born in Dereham and chose to remain there throughout her life.

She was a pupil at the town's high school for girls - now Neatherd High - and retained links with it right through to the 2000s as a governor.

After school she worked for Barclays bank before joining the Women's Royal Air Force (WRAF) during the second world war, where she spent a lot of time stationed in Northern Ireland and reached the rank of corporal.

On her return to Dereham she worked for Hood, Vores and Allwood solicitors and met husband John Duigan, a solicitor at a rival firm.

Her son Phillip Duigan, also a former Dereham Mayor, said politics was always part of the family's life.

His mother's grandfather had been a chairman of the area's urban district council and, growing up in the same house, Mrs Duigan inevitably caught the bug at an early age.

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She was a founding member of the Dereham Young Conservatives, which began in 1947, and, after starting a family, was convinced to join the realms of local government in 1965 as the councillor for Hoe on the Mitford and Launditch Rural District Council.

After that there was no stopping her. Over the next four decades she held the roles of Dereham mayor, Breckland council chairman and, in 1992, became county council chairman.

Her efforts did not go unnoticed and she was made an MBE in 1990 in recognition of her services to politics.

Her son said: 'I think she would probably like to be remembered for the totality - for everything she did.

'She came off county just after she was 75. She wanted to be remembered while she was still at her best.'

Her political career brought her into contact with some of the leading figures of the Conservative party including Margaret Thatcher, who came to the town during an election campaign in the 1980s.

Mr Duigan, 53, said he learnt a lot watching his mother work her way through the ranks.

'It was there from day one,' he said. 'I remember putting my first leaflets through a door with her in 1968 when I was 10 or 11. Some families do sport, or are involved in the church, we did politics.'

Mrs Duigan passed away on Sunday at Sanford House in Dereham, where she had lived since having a stroke three years ago.

At the beginning of next Tuesday's Dereham Town Council meeting, members will hold a minute's silence in her memory.

Her funeral takes place at St Nicholas Parish Church, where she and her husband married in 1951, on Wednesday October 20 at 2pm and donations will be collected for the Friends of Dereham Hospital.

Mrs Duigan leaves behind her eldest daughter Jocelyn, 57, and son Phillip - their sister Christabel passed away two years ago at the age of 53 - three grandchildren, Oliver, 28, Alexandra, 26, and Luke, 16, and her only brother Roger, 91.