Local solicitor and community worker dies

Joan Jeffrey
Joan Jeffrey

A RETIRED solicitor from Castleton, who was a pioneering law student, has died at the age of 79.

Joan Mary Jeffrey was the subject of a feature in the Whitby Gazette in 1979 when she passed the first part of her Law Society examinations despite having been told by people in the profession including the Society itself that the task she had set herself was impossible.

At that time the prevailing system of qualifying to practice law was being phased out. The new system would involve a degree course followed by a further full-time legal course.

For Joan it meant that while continuing in her full-time job as a secretary with the firm of solicitors where she had worked for twelve years she had only two years to pass all her law examinations.

In addition, she was caring for her home, her husband Douglas and her 21-year-old son Neil. She also had other family commitments with daughter Alison who was expecting her second baby and a two-year-old grandson.

To cope with it she adopted a gruelling schedule including opening a textbook as soon as she woke in the morning and getting through all her household jobs with an open textbook beside her.

Shortly after she qualified she was able to buy the legal business where she worked and she continued to run it until she retired in 2000.

In addition to her work, Joan was active in the community and a founder member and chairman of Esk Valley Lifeline, an organisation set up in 1985 to provide equipment for the two local doctor’s surgeries.

Initially, the Lifeline’s members aimed at a total of £2,000 but during the past 22 years have succeeded in raising £156,000 spending the money on equipment not provided by the NHS.

Joan was born in 1933 in Great Ayton, the youngest of a family of seven and educated at Edward Kitching School. When she was aged 11 she gained a scholarship to Ayton Friend’s School.

When she left school she worked at ICI after taking courses in shorthand and typing and following her marriage in 1953, the couple lived in Great Broughton and Stokesley before moving to Castleton in 1973.

Among the many friends who paid tributes to her was Elaine Lewis who said: “Joan had a vibrant personality that commanded respect whether in the courtroom or at a social gathering.

“She also had a great sense of fun and style. Her grandson when describing her to someone who didn’t know her but was meeting her off the train said, don’t look for an old woman, look for the woman with the biggest beads! She will be greatly missed.”

Castleton parish church was crowded for a service of thanksgiving for Joan’s life followed by committal and interment at Danby Church Yard.