Tribute to a charity champion

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A well-known pensioner, who worked tirelessly for charity, has died at the age of 94.

Remarkable Maisie Polwarth raised thousands of pounds for good causes throughout her life, as well as organising practical support and donations.

My mother would never regard herself as a great woman, no matter what she had done.

Pamela Cassells

She touched so many lives that while she only moved to Morpeth in 1988, some 200 people gathered at St James’s Church last Thursday to pay their respects.

Mrs Polwarth had a passion for writing and regularly entered the Morpeth Northumbrian Gathering competitions with tales of her life. This work was read at her funeral by family members, ensuring her story was told in her own words.

She was born at Tyne Dock to George and Phyllis McKenzie, moving when just a few weeks old to Dudley, where her father ran a barber’s shop.

After leaving school, Mrs Polwarth learnt shorthand and typing and intended to seek a clerical post, working in her father’s shop in the meantime.

However, when the Second World War broke out she took up a job in a grocery shop, delivering orders by horse and cart.

She enjoyed attending church, choir practice and the drama group, and met her husband Jim at the church youth club they ran together. Mr Polwarth volunteered for the Royal Navy in 1940 and the pair intended to marry when he was home on leave. However, his leave was cancelled and Maisie signed up for the Auxiliary Territorial Service.

When Mr Polwarth’s ship was damaged the wedding was on again, but Maisie’s call-up papers arrived ordering her to barracks in Edinburgh two days before the big day.

She was granted leave and the wedding went ahead, but due to a mix-up Mrs Polwarth was posted as a deserter. When she reported to the recruiting centre she was told that as she had married she was exempt from service and had to go back to her grocery job and voluntary work as a fire watcher.

The couple had three children, Pamela, Peter and Jim, and moved to Morpeth to be near Pamela, but sadly Mr Polwarth died soon afterwards.

Mrs Polwarth loved her home in Millside and became a firm part of the community, organising many tea dances and social gatherings.

She ran annual Macmillan Coffee Mornings from their inception, and when her home was flooded in 2008 she simply switched the venue to a nearby business. Even failing eyesight did not stop her playing host, and she held her last coffee morning for the charity as recently as September.

Mrs Polwarth also sent parcels to Romania and spectacles to Africa, collected tins for the Wansbeck Valley Food Bank and People’s Kitchen, organised sales for Guide Dogs, and was a member of The Pennies Folk, collecting loose change for children’s charities.

She was a volunteer librarian at Newminster Middle School and a member of the WI, Mothers’ Union and Morpeth Antiquarian Society, for which a collection was taken at her funeral.

Mrs Polwarth died suddenly on February 24, leaving three children, seven grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.