Distinguished lawyer dies shortly after 90th birthday

Margaret Vaughan, known as Joan
Margaret Vaughan, known as Joan
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A WHITBY resident who had a distinguished career as a lawyer and district judge has died shortly after celebrating her 90th birthday.

Margaret Joan Hawkin Vaughan, known as Joan, was born in Huddersfield in 1922, the only child of Quaker parents.

At the age of 11, Joan won two scholarships to Ackworth School near Pontefract and wanted to go on to study at the London School of Economics.

But it was 1940 and London was suffering the height of the Blitz with nightly bombing and her mother persuaded her to go to Manchester University instead.

In Manchester she met George Vaughan, her future husband.

They both registered as conscientious objectors and George joined the Friends Ambulance Unit in London while Joan trained as a nurse at Leeds General Infirmary.

When Joan joined George in London they were caught in the Blitz and sheltered, like thousands of others, in the Underground.

Their daughter Jenny said: “They used to get on the Circle line trains and travel on them during the bombing because they said it was harder for the Germans to hit a moving target.”

They married during the war at Crawshawbooth Quaker Meeting House and soon after, George was sent to Belgium where he was seriously injured when his ambulance crashed down a dyke after encountering German tanks.

He was not expected to survive but did and in 1948 they moved to London.

Seven years later, George qualified as a solicitor and set up his own law firm.

Joan stayed at home rearing their five children but following the birth of their youngest daughter, started to work closely with George in the family law practice.

She qualified as a solicitor, specialising in family law, just in time to take over the firm when George died in 1968 as a result of his wartime injury.

In 1978 she became the second woman Registrar in the country and in 1980-81 sat as a Deputy Master in the Chancery Division of the High Court and also worked as a Taxing Master in the High Court.

Despite a heart attack in 1983 and a triple bypass in 1989, Joan continued to enjoy her work as a Registrar and in the 1990s was appointed a District Judge in West Yorkshire.

She retired aged 72 and enjoyed hobbies including tapestry and lace making and after chasing a burglar out of her home one night she refused her family’s request to move to York as Whitby was where she wanted to be.

Jenny said: “Three months ago she said she had had a good life but she was tired and felt that it was time to quit while the going was good.

“She died as she had lived with determination and single-mindedness and we shall miss her wise counsel and ready wit.”

She is survived by five children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.