Death of midwife who delivered of babies in Yarmouth area

A MUCH-loved midwife and “a true lady” who, over two decades delivered hundreds of babies across Belton, Bradwell, Burgh Castle and Gorleston, has died at the age of 85.

One of three children Joyce Micklethwaite (nee Roll) was born in Somerleyton on July 12, 1926, and enjoyed an idyllic childhood living on The Green and attending the village school.

Her first nursing job was at Lowestoft Hospital, where she cared for German prisoners-of-war, the crew of an e-boat.

From there she undertook training in London, Manchester and Huddersfield, initially doing her rounds on a push bike and sometimes having her tyres let down by local youngsters.

She met her husband Eric Micklethwaite, a no-nonsense coal miner, while training at Holme Valley Memorial Hospital in Yorkshire, and had two children, Angela and Roger.

In 1966 the family returned to Somerleyton where Mr Micklethwaite enjoyed his work as a woodsman on the Somerleyton estate.

Mrs Micklethwaite became district midwife for the southern parishes, helping many babies into the world, and almost all of those born in the Somerleyton, Lound, Ashby area, often in their own homes. On one occasion, on Christmas Day, she had to summon help from Dr Bill Hamilton-Deane who was carving the turkey.

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Preferring traditional methods over modern fads like birthing pools, she was able to take firm control of situations, sometimes ushering families away from a crowded new mum so she could get some rest.

Having taken early retirement she continued to work part time at the ante-natal clinic.

The couple moved to Caister 18 years ago.

Her daughter, Angela Rayner, 51, of Norwich, described her as a selfless person, kind and caring, who was never down in the dumps.

Since her mother’s death she had been inundated with messages from people who all spoke very highly of her.

Active and independent, she had many talents spanning music, dress-making and embroidery, knitting matinee jackets for babies until almost the end.

Always immaculately turned out, she would even put on her pearls and best hat for treatment, at the James Paget University Hospital’s Sandra Chapman Centre, for leukaemia.

Mrs Rayner said cancer nurses told her she was a remarkable woman and a true lady. Well-spoken and always beautifully turned out, she was known affectionately by her grandchildren as “the Queen.”

Mr Micklethwaite died four years ago.

Dr Hamilton-Deane said it was no exaggeration that Mrs Micklethwaite had delivered half the population on the Gorleston side of the river.

“I worshipped the lady for what she was,” he said.

“Everyone loved her. Quite frankly I loved her, she was a dear girl. She gave everything to everybody and saw the good in everyone.

“Even when she was in hospital I told the nurse she had a very important lady in her bed – Nurse Micklethwaite – and she had delivered both her children.

“Everywhere I go they all say she was a wonderful lady. We could rely on her absolutely.”

She leaves her daughter Angela and son Roger, 53, from Caister and three grandchildren, James, Camilla and Payson.

She also leaves a brother, Gerry, who lives in Gunton. Another brother, Geoffrey, died in childhood, aged four.

The funeral service is at Somerleyton church on Monday, August 1, at 11am, followed by cremation at Gorleston at noon and a gathering at the Cliff Hotel.