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Yours sincerely... our tribute to Norwich teacher and champion letter-writer

PUBLISHED: 10:41 03 June 2017

Margaret and her brother Noel who went on to be a Norfolk police officer.

Margaret and her brother Noel who went on to be a Norfolk police officer.

Archant

Derek James pays tribute to former Norwich teacher Margaret Haley, one of the city's most prolific letter writers.

Margaret’'s father, Reggie Codling, in the middle of the back row. The picture was taken outside the Air Raid Wardens post in Cambridge Street, Norwich, in 1940. Margaret would go on to serve as a firewatcher at Blyth School.Margaret’'s father, Reggie Codling, in the middle of the back row. The picture was taken outside the Air Raid Wardens post in Cambridge Street, Norwich, in 1940. Margaret would go on to serve as a firewatcher at Blyth School.

Dear Reader... This is a letter about a champion writer. A woman you may not have ever met but may well know her name: Margaret Haley.

Whatever the subject, whatever the occasion, Margaret had her opinion and she spent endless hours writing hundreds and hundreds of letters which were published over many years in the Evening News, the Eastern Daily Press and our monthly magazine Let’s Talk.

Playing in Wayland Woods during the 1930s. That’s Margaret on the left with cousins Ann and Marion Garner.Playing in Wayland Woods during the 1930s. That’s Margaret on the left with cousins Ann and Marion Garner.

Hardly a week went back without a letter from Margaret on just about every subject under the sun.

And before she turned to letter writing she helped to educated thousands of Norwich and Norfolk boys and girls as a teacher at various schools over the years. “It was such an honour. I loved my job,” she once told me.

Margaret Codling was born at Watton in 1926. Brother Noel – who grew up to be a Norfolk police officer – arrived nine years later, a ready-made little boy doll for Margaret and her friends to dress up in silly clothes, and take for walks.

She went to Thetford Grammar School before the family moved to Norwich in 1939, just as the Second World War was starting. Bad timing.

They lived in Cambridge Street during the dark days of the Blitz and had many tales to tell of her experiences during those terrible time.

She was a firewatcher at Blyth School where she was a pupil. She told of the time she and her father Reggie, an air raid warden, cycled through Chapelfield Gardens at 4am to check a fire in Bethel Street had not hit the printing works where he worked.

Margaret had always wanted to be a journalist but went into teaching, first at Wensum View Junior School, then at North Earlham and Catton Grove Primary.

Afterwards she was a supply teacher, working at various schools in the city and county.

After her career ended, she and her late husband Brian, who worked at Eastern Counties Newspapers (now Archant), packed their suitcases and went travelling. They visited countries across the world – they travelled the length and breadth of America adding to their collection of... vehicle number plates.

They also loved Australia, its people, their culture and the climate.

And then there was the letter-writing. Margaret read the papers and had an opinion on most stories and loved sharing them with our readers. Rarely a week went back without receiving a letter from her starting with: “With reference to....”

Her brother Noel said: “She was always fiercely independent and until recently enjoyed good health. She was always very mentally alert. She passed away peacefully in the Norfolk and Norwich Hospital.”

Her funeral service was held at St Faith’s Crematorium a few days ago. She had a son who lives in America.

Sadly, we don’t have an up-to-date photograph of her, but thanks to Noel we are able to present some scenes from an eventful life.

Thank you, Margaret, for sharing your memories, thoughts and ideas with us. You made us think... and you made us smile. We will miss you.

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