My mother, Barbara Yorke, who has died aged 90, was a magistrate and local historian who was appointed MBE for public service in 2001, thanks to her contribution to life in south-west Lancashire. Her original research into the lifeboat service as a member of her local history group recognised Formby as the first location of a dedicated boat for saving lives at sea in Britain.
Born in Liverpool, the only child of Henry Norton, a clerk, and Kitty (nee Harrison), a nurse, Barbara lived in Formby until her father died of heart failure when she was four. She and her mother moved to Gateacre and spent the second world war years with wider family. Educated at Calder high school and FL Calder College, Liverpool, she qualified with a diploma of education and a diploma in domestic science in 1951. She married her childhood sweetheart, Reginald Yorke, that year and moved back to Formby after he qualified as a doctor and the birth of their first child.
Even with a growing family – the couple went on to have seven children – Barbara used her energy and enthusiasm to invigorate the local Labour party and eventually saw local constituencies return Labour and SDP MPs. Appointed justice of the peace in 1964, she became the longest-serving JP on the North Sefton division, chairing the juvenile and youth court panels in the 1980s and the Merseyside probation committee in the 1990s, steering through improvements to the criminal justice system and its impact on young people.
With a love and knowledge of wildlife, in 1977 she became warden of the newly created Haskayne Cutting Nature Reserve. For decades she ran the children’s section of the Formby Horticultural Society’s annual show and, as president, she maintained the show’s momentum into its centenary year, 1993.
During the 1970s and 80s she served on many health bodies and helped manage the move of North Sefton hospital services into a new, purpose-built hospital. She ran the Formby Society’s history group from 1981 and, in 1982, published her book Britain’s First Lifeboat Station at Formby, Merseyside, 1776-1918, the first of several books on local history. These made her a popular local speaker and, from 2000, she chaired the Formby Society. Two of my brothers have got Fragile X syndrome and, through the Fragile X Society, my parents supported other families with children who also had the learning disability.
Reginald died in 2018. Barbara is survived by their children, Roger, Rebecca, Penelope, Giles, Nigel, Myles and me, four granddaughters and two great-granddaughters.