Michael Upcroft

Michael Upcroft, who has died aged 80, was a Barnardo's boy who became a union leader and a National Health Service trust director.

Michael Upcroft, who has died aged 80, was a Barnardo's boy who became a union leader and a National Health Service trust director.

He spent nearly all his life in Norfolk, which he looked on as home, but was born in London to an unmarried mother.

When his mother died of tuberculosis, leaving him an orphan at the age of four, he was taken into care by Barnardo's and fostered by a family at Toftwood, near Dereham, from 1930. He would later describe his foster family as "marvellous people", although he also said: "I started off with very little, and the big hindrance was being orphaned."

He left school at 14 and delivered bread for the Co-op before joining the RAF in 1943. His experiences in Burma and Java would stay with him for the rest of his life, and he gave talks to schools and clubs up to his death. He was also life vice-president of the Burma Star Association and played a prominent role in local remembrance services.


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He met his wife Dorothy at a dance in Norwich, and they married in 1950. They moved to Gillingham, and Mr Upcroft started work at the print works in nearby Beccles of Clowes - a job he planned to do for three months but which lasted for 40 years.

He became father of the chapel for the Society of Graphical and Allied Trades (Sogat) and went on to serve on its national executive.

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Mr Upcroft was a founder-member of the Trades Union Congress (TUC) eastern region executive.

When he retired in 1990 he became a non-executive director and vice-chairman of the Anglian Harbours NHS Trust, with particular respons-ibility for overseeing industrial relations with the health service unions. He also gave up his time to serve as a magistrate on the Norwich Bench from 1976 to 1995.

He was made an MBE in 1999 for services to East Anglia and the NHS in particular. Interviewed by the EDP in 1992, he said: "I like people and I love my union work. Life is dull without a challenge. I have had a smashing life. If I went tomorrow I couldn't grumble."

Yet through all his life he lived with a sense of uncertainty. He was not even sure of his own surname, since his birth certificate was hand-written and could have been read as Upcraft - a more common name - but Barnardo's called him Upcroft and so it stuck. He was 70 when the charity told him who his father was - too late to act on the news, though he did manage to obtain a copy of his father's birth certificate and discover he had been a chauffeur.

Mr Upcroft leaves two daughters, Mandy Denny and Margaret Hall, a niece and great-nephew.

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