Tribute to former Lord Mayor of Norwich, Joyce Morgan

A former Lord Mayor of Norwich, Joyce Morgan, who has died aged 90, had the perfect view of her city during her year of office – from her 14th-floor flat on top of Normandie Towers.

When she became the fifth woman civic leader in 52 years in May 1975, it was also International Women's Year. In her year, she had 663 engagements, wore her chain of office 307 times, made 96 speeches and attended 122 official lunches and dinners.

After retiring from the city council, she was chairman of Age Concern Norwich and transformed the Charing Cross Centre's fortunes after becoming chairman in 1979.

One of her main reasons for standing for the council, having joined the Labour Party in 1948, was her desire to get the 11-plus abolished, which happened during her time on the education committee. A councillor for 17 years, she was elected to the former Corporation of Norwich for Bowthorpe Ward in 1962 with a majority of more than 500. When later she stood for Mancroft for the first time, she won by just six votes.

Born in Norwich on January 10, 1922, Joyce Pat Bird was the third of six children and went to the Colman Road schools. She started work aged 14 in the city's boot and shoe factories. Later, she became an usherette at the Haymarket Cinema, since demolished, now Topshop. She joined Caley's in 1939 and within six weeks had been promoted to supervisor.


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She volunteered for the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in 1940. At RAF Marham, she met and married Gwilym Morgan, who worked for Boulton & Paul, and left after nearly four years' service in November 1943. Their only son was born in February.

A highlight of her year was an official invitation to return to the station for the first time as Lord Mayor. Of her time at the Bomber Command station, she recalled: 'I was a waitress in the sergeants' mess . . . I didn't have a clue about waiting. I was very bashful at first.'

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There, she used to pack rations for air crew for missions. After she had added extra cheese sandwiches for one of her special crews, she learnt that they went down in the sea later that night. But two days later, she had a telegram, which she kept for years. It said: 'All safe but sandwiches laid heavy.'

As a councillor, she was on many committees including education, and was chairman of the children's committee. For 10 years, she was chairman of environmental health. In 1971, she was deputy mayor.

As Lord Mayor, she started a new-style Christmas visit to all the city's hospitals. Instead of just the Christmas Day visit, she made longer visits, ending on Christmas Eve at the children's ward of the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital. Her experience of working Saturdays at C&A in Norwich's Haymarket was invaluable because when attending up to four official functions a day, she acquired a wardrobe of 22 evening dresses.

She was made a magistrate in 1967, serving until 1991. A founder member of the Norfolk & Norwich Pensioners' Association and the St Edmunds Society, she was a trustee of Age Concern Norwich from 1975 and chairman from 1984. After retiring in 1999, she became life president.

She held many other posts and was a governor of Norwich City College and chairman of managers of Lakenham First and Middle Schools. In the 18 years to 1987, she held a succession of roles with what became the Norwich Area Authority from 1974, including responsibility for making senior appointments of consultants to the district's hospitals.

She was on the social security advisory committee and the war pensions committee and served on the Eastern Gas consultative committee.

She was widowed in 1993, six weeks before her golden wedding. She married William Knight in 2001.

Her son, John, predeceased, and she leaves a granddaughter and two great grandchildren.

A funeral will be held at the City of Norwich, Earlham Crematorium, on Tuesday, December 11 at 11.15am.

Michael Pollitt

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