Dereham Inner Wheel founder member Mabel “Teddy” O’Donnell dies, aged 94

PUBLISHED: 12:32 15 October 2018 | UPDATED: 12:32 15 October 2018


Mabel "Teddy" O'Donnell with Charlotte Ridley, one of her five great grandchildren Picture: CONAL O'DONNELL.


The widow of Dereham Urban District Council’s last surveyor has died in hospital aged 94.

Mabel “Teddy” O’Donnell passed away peacefully in the Norfolk & Norwich University Hospital surrounded by her family.

She was married to council surveyor Conal O’Donnell for almost 50 years.

Teddy O’Donnell was born in 1924, the day after George V opened the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley and before all women had the vote.

The daughter of a primary school headmaster she was brought up in Cranfield, Bedfordshire where she recalled as a child seeing the ill fated R101 airship fly its trials before its fatal crash en route to India in 1930.

During the war she trained as a teacher at Hockerill College, Bishop Stortford. She taught in London’s east end in 1944.

One morning she arrived at work to find her school destroyed overnight by a V1 Doodlebug. Fortunately the school was empty at the time.

In 1946 she did a course at Brighton College of Art. While there she met Captain Conal O’Donnell MBE TD, who was training to resume his local government career after distinguished service with SOE in occupied and liberated Greece 1943-45.

The couple married in 1947 moving first to Swaffham, and then Dereham on her husband’s appointment as surveyor to Dereham Council.

In 1956 Mr O’Donnell successfully sued his employer Dereham UDC for libel after a six-week trial. The case attracted national media interest.

Mrs O’Donnell taught at Canterbury House School Dereham (now Sowerbys the estate agent) Watton and Hardingham schools and the Convent of the Sacred Heart, Swaffham.

She was a founder member of Dereham Inner Wheel and a WEA member of the University of Cambridge Board of Extra-Mural Studies. She was also a contributor to “ Victorian Dereham” published in 1989.

Twenty years ago ,annoyed by the speed and volume of traffic on Quebec Road, Dereham, she became chairman of a residents protest group which gained the support of the then local MP Keith Simpson.

She is survived by two sons, both Cambridge graduates, two grandchildren,one a BBC producer, and five great grand children.

Her family are most grateful for the expert care she received on Loddon Ward at the N&NUH. Her funeral will be held at the Roman Catholic Church, Dereham at a date to be fixed.

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