Andrea Davies, Trustee of Suf­folk East Fed­er­a­tion of WIs, meets an in­spi­ra­tional WI mem­ber, Mar­garet Bax­ter.

Let's Talk - - CONTENTS -

Top hon­our for WI’s Mag­gie

Novem­ber 1, 2018, will be an im­por­tant date for long-time WI mem­ber Mag­gie Bax­ter. That day she will re­ceive the Bri­tish Em­pire Medal for her ser­vice to com­mu­ni­ties in both Africa and the UK, and in par­tic­u­lar Stow­mar­ket New­stalk for the Blind.

Mag­gie’s name was put for­ward to the Cab­i­net Of­fice by a group of peo­ple who have known her for many years in a wide range of com­mu­nity projects in Eng­land and Zim­babwe. The medal will be pre­sented at Eu­ston Hall by the Lord Lieu­tenant of Suf­folk, Lady Eu­ston, Her Majesty’s rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the county.

Mag­gie was born in Cheshire of Scot­tish par­ents and ed­u­cated in Wor­thing in Sus­sex. She had her first taste of Suf­folk on ma­noeu­vres with the Aux­il­iary Ter­ri­to­rial Ser­vice (ATS) dur­ing the war.

Her hus­band had served in Bomber Com­mand but af­ter they mar­ried in 1950 they moved to Zim­babwe, then Rhode­sia, where he took up a civil en­gi­neer’s job. They went on a three-year con­tract, fell in love with Africa and stayed for 33 years. Some of the engi­neer­ing skills must have rubbed off be­cause not only did he qual­ify as a nar­row gauge steam rail­way en­gine driver but so did Mag­gie, and their cer­tifi­cates are proudly dis­played at her home.

She was a mem­ber of the Rhode­sia WI and when she re­turned to the UK she en­joyed time on the speaker cir­cuits for Nor­folk and Suf­folk, giv­ing talks about her life in Africa and on Joyce Gren­fell whom she much ad­mires.

Hav­ing al­ways en­joyed am­a­teur dra­mat­ics, Mag­gie has used her warm, clear voice in her work with New­stalk for the Blind, bring­ing news to vis­ually im­paired peo­ple in the Stow­mar­ket area. A fort­nightly edi­tion is com­mit­ted to a mem­ory stick and sent to sub­scribers. Royal Mail make no charge for the postage.

Mar­garet also ran the Holy Fools Troop for 15 years here in Suf­folk. This was one of the lead­ing Chris­tian clown­ing groups in the coun­try and the mem­bers per­formed in prisons such as High­point and Holles­ley as well as churches in Suf­folk, tak­ing the ser­mon slot.

Still per­form­ing in lo­cal pro­duc­tions her trib­utes to Joyce Gren­fell, “Ge­orge, don’t do that dear”, and Mar­garet Ruther­ford “The Owl and the Pussy­cat” are leg­endary.

She didn’t shy away from more se­ri­ous roles though and was a gov­er­nor of Bos­mere Pri­mary School in Need­ham Mar­ket for al­most 20 years, as well as writ­ing plays for young­sters with learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. She also wrote for the Need­ham Mar­ket News­let­ter with news from the school un­der the guise of Bos­mere Bear.

Her fam­ily is thrilled about her medal. As her daugh­ter Jane says: “We are ex­tremely proud of all the work she has done for every com­mu­nity in which she has lived, both in the UK and in Zim­babwe.”

What a joy Mag­gie is to talk to! In spite of sight and mo­bil­ity prob­lems, her ready smile, twin­kling eyes and a warm sense of hu­mour make her a true ex­am­ple of in­spi­ra­tion from our WI mem­ber­ship.

For more in­for­ma­tion about the WI, visit­

Mar­garet Bax­ter has led an ex­tra­or­di­nary life of ser­vice to the com­mu­nity.

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