Tributes have this week been paid to a former Mayoress of Burnham-On-Sea and Highbridge who has died at the age of 84.
Margot Jones, the wife of Burnham district and town councillor Neville Jones, has passed away after a brain tumour.
She was a strong supporter of the town and gave her backing to many community groups over the years. While Mayoress, she introduced the town’s Civic Awards ceremony to recognise the efforts of local people and she also held many civic receptions and helped fundraise for BARB’s first rescue boat.
Neville and Margot met in 1948 after a mobile hairdressing business set Neville on a blind date. After they married in 1949, pictured below, they bought a house on the edge of the Cotswolds while Neville took his first steps into local government, becoming the youngest member of Oxford County Council at age 29.
From there, they moved to Devon and ran two successful hotels. The couple moved to Burnham in 1972, where Neville has served on the town, district and county councils and received an OBE in 1993. He has been Mayor of Burnham and Highbridge four times, with Margot giving strong support as Mayoress.
“I could never do the things I have achieved without her,” says Neville. “She spent a huge amount of time supporting me and was the most excellent hostess with guests. She was a very active Mayoress – I say that with pride – and was very energetic in so many things. She never minded putting her hand into her purse to help with hospitality, a standard that has been maintained ever since.”
“She had a key role in helping to fundraise for the first BARB rescue boat in Burnham and helped with many follow-on fundraising events. She was also instrumental in the major alterations that took place at the Princess Hall, as it called was then. It was her idea to take away the middle floor for a theatre with a retractable floor and to put a balcony in there. She loved being Mayoress and was very proud of the role.”
Current Mayor Cllr Martin Cox paid tribute to her this week, saying: “I will always have fond memories of Margot. A devoted wife to her husband Neville, she had a ready smile for everyone and always looked glamorous, even in her most recent years. She was also the perfect hostess for the many dinner parties at their seafront apartment. Margot was the rock behind Neville’s busy life dealing with his varied council responsibilities and her encyclopaedic knowledge of people and places also helped in this regard. Margot was a very strong woman, not without her own opinions, as Neville will very well know! Margot was a remarkable woman and the world is a much poorer place without her.”
Louise Parkin, a close friend and fellow town councillor, added: “Margot was instrumental in setting up the civic awards system whilst her husband was Mayor with Sir Mark Pizey being its first recipient. She felt that ordinary people who put so much time and effort into voluntary work as well as notable figures should receive their due recognition. She also introduced some much-needed glamour to the position of Mayoress and was rarely seen in public without a hat.”
“Margot worked alongside her husband to secure funding from Sedgemoor District Council to redevelop the then Princess Hall after it had fallen into disrepair. Visiting officers and councilors were always welcome to her home and treated to her wonderful home cooking. With a background in the hotel trade she found no difficulty in catering for dignitaries who had previously been welcomed with tea and biscuits. Whilst it may be the norm now, it was she who started the trend of holding mayoral receptions for town twinnings and whenever councillors and officers needed to be shown around the parish. Many of the traditions that she started have been copied by other towns and parishes and she was always a popular figure among councilors not only from local parishes but also from farther afield where she supported her husband who become Chairman of the national Federation of Economic Development Association.”
Eileen Shaw, who was Town Clerk while Margot was Mayoress, added: “My husband and I were saddened to hear of Margot’s death. We will always remember her as an attractive, sometimes feisty, but always kind and generous woman. She was always a great support to Neville during 65 years of marriage, through good times and difficult times. She was also a great asset to the towns as Mayoress and was well-known for the way in which she hosted dignatories and us ordinary folk alike. I will miss her, and send my deepest sympathy to Neville and her family.”
A funeral service will be held at 12.30pm on Thursday, January 29th at St Andrew’s Church in Burnham-On-Sea. The dress code will be lounge suits, black ties and ‘cheerful button holes’.
Margot and Neville meeting Prince Edward during his visit to BARB last year
The couple arriving at the Burnham and Highbridge Civic Service in 2010