JOYCE TAYLOR, who was Morecambe’s longest-serving councillor before the last election, and twice mayor of the district, has stepped down from Lancaster City Council after 39 years. GREG LAMBERT went to meet her.
A family tragedy taught Joyce Taylor how to be independent from a very young age.
And during 39 years as a councillor, Joyce continued to be fiercely independent throughout a committed life of public service.
Joyce, who stepped down from her role as an independent councillor for Heysham Central ward before the elections, was twice the mayor of Lancaster.
She was also a tireless campaigner on local issues, especially if they involved children or animals.
The mum-of-five and devoted grandma and great-grandma from Morecambe, who has just celebrated her 80th birthday, has always had the welfare of young people at heart.
Charismatic and caring Joyce fought passionately for causes including the opening of a new children’s ward at the Royal Lancaster Infirmary.
“I’ve been looking after people all my life,” she said.
Joyce was born in the family home on Railway Avenue near Morecambe Cricket Club in 1935.
She went to Euston Road School and loved to sing, regularly entering the Morecambe Music Festival.
But she suffered tragedy just after the Second World War when her dad Fred died, aged just 36.
His untimely death came just a few years after a freak accident while serving in Dunkirk.
“My dad was a soldier and he was on a wagon on the beach at Dunkirk,” said Joyce.
“There was another young man running behind the wagon, trying to keep up.
“Dad was quite athletic so he jumped down to help the young man up. Just as he got back on, they went over some stones on the beach. He lost his balance, fell back onto the beach and hit his head.
“He had no ID because his kit bag was still on the wagon. All he had was a photo of me.”
Fred never recovered from the fall. He started to have regular fits, so he was discharged from the army and died soon after the war ended.
His wife Annie was left to bring up Joyce and her brother David alone and took cleaning jobs, including at the Winter Gardens theatre, to make ends meet.
Joyce quickly learned to look after herself and her little brother and there was little question that she would eventually enter a profession which involved caring for others.
She became a nurse, working at the Royal Albert hospital in Lancaster, and later a children’s nanny.
As a teenager, Joyce also met the love of her life, Joe Taylor. They have now been married for 63 years.
In 1976, she was encouraged to stand for council by the former mayor, Nellie Bolton.
“I was trying to get a community centre for Westgate at the time,” she said.
“I stood for the Ratepayers’ Association. Heysham Central was traditionally Conservative but I topped the poll, and I topped the poll at every election after that.”
As a councillor, Joyce rallied behind many causes and would often sit in the Arndale Centre, gathering petitions of signatures.
She got 25,000 people to sign her petition to keep the Queen Victoria hospital casualty department open in Morecambe.
“We took that to Buckingham Palace,” said Joyce.
“On the day we were going to London, I realised I’d left the petition at home. I caught the train at Morecambe and Joe rushed up with the petition just as we pulled into Bare.
“The Visitor headline at the time was ‘25,000 people nearly missed the train!’”
In the late 1970s, Joyce also took a petition on behalf of children with renal failure to 10 Downing Street.
“A car pulled up while I was there, and out got Dennis Healey, who was Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time.
“He was a very big man and I was 5ft 2. He came up and put his arm around me and asked me what he could do. He kept turning around and smiling at the press, who were taking photos.
“I told him ‘this government has written off £90m in foreign aid and we can’t save these kids?’ I put my foot down in anger and stamped on his toe by accident!
“To be fair though, he said he would make enquiries, and he did, he wrote to me.”
But the toe incident with Dennis Healey wouldn’t be the only time Joyce put her foot in it with a VIP.
The first time she was mayor of Lancaster in 1993/4, Joyce was invited to a garden party at Buckingham Palace.
“I saw Princess Diana there. She went over to talk to a lady in a wheelchair.
“I moved away because they were talking. As she finished, she turned, looked straight at me, and smiled.
“There was just a little trickle of perspiration on her face because it was a hot day.
“She asked me where I was from and I said ‘Morecambe, I’m the mayor’.
“I thought that was very kind, she didn’t have to do that.
“But then after she walked on, this other lady guest who was nearby said: ‘We make a good team, we do. Let’s try to meet the Queen now’.
“She pulled me through towards the Queen, and I lost my balance and fell right at the feet of the Duke of Edinburgh.
“I got up, said ‘pleased to meet you sir’, then ran off!”
NEXT WEEK: How Joyce made a lasting impression on the troops in Northern Ireland