Barbara Yorke obituary

Other lives: Magistrate and local historian who established Formby as the site of the oldest dedicated lifeboat station in Britain

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.

Barbara Yorke at Formby Horticultural Society’s annual show, of which she was president, in 1993
Barbara Yorke at Formby Horticultural Society’s annual show, of which she was president, in 1993 Photograph: UNKNOWN

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.

Diana Pearce

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Christopher Birch obituary
Other lives: Journalist and political activist who in later life worked as a volunteer supporting people with HIV

Frank Birch

19, Oct, 2021 @5:04 PM

Article image
Mike Tomlin obituary
Other lives: Founder or member of numerous charitable organisations dealing with social deprivation across Teesside

Phil Tomlin

06, Oct, 2022 @12:25 PM

Article image
Lizzie Sanders obituary
Other lives: Illustrator and historian whose work includes the countryside scene that graces packs of Yorkshire Tea

Guy Sanders

06, Sep, 2020 @4:54 PM

Article image
David Rubinstein obituary
Other lives: Social historian who wrote on education, housing, the labour movement and women’s history

Paul Lawrence

19, Aug, 2019 @3:59 PM

Article image
Catherine Finegan obituary
Other lives: Birmingham city councillor made honorary alderman for her 20 years of service

Nuala Finegan

31, Jan, 2022 @11:42 AM

Article image
Abdul Quddus obituary
Other lives: Education officer at Leeds city council who set up organisations to help Bame communities access further education and professional careers

Asi Panditharatna

04, Feb, 2022 @6:13 PM

Article image
Terry Sanderson obituary
Other lives: Gay rights activist who worked with adults with learning disabilites and became president of the National Secular Society

Keith Porteous Wood

19, Jul, 2022 @5:14 PM

Article image
Derek Heaton obituary
Other lives: Lecturer in law who led and inspired a free legal information service in Sheffield

Andy Eaton

11, Apr, 2019 @3:06 PM

Article image
Alan Leather obituary
Other lives: Activist for international causes who roused trade union members across the globe

Jack Leather

18, Apr, 2019 @3:46 PM

Article image
Hanna Ahmed obituary
Other lives: Volunteer and support worker with refugee and anti-FGM groups in Bristol

Natasha Carver

18, Jan, 2021 @2:58 PM