Tributes to Dusmagrik Theatre Company’s Margaret Miller

HER efforts helped countless youngsters tread the boards, all the while raising thousands of pounds for charities, and those who knew her said she was “a duchess” until her last day.

Mother-of-three Margaret Miller died aged 82 on Tuesday in the arms of her partner Dusty Miller and surrounded by loved ones at her home in Gorleston.

Among many things, she leaves behind the legacy of Dusmagrik Young People’s Theatre Company, which is in its 26th year and has put on countless productions, inspired many generations and raised an estimated �40,000 for good causes.

Dusty Miller described the woman she first met more than three decades ago, and whose death she said had left the many who knew her past and present “absolutely devastated”.

The 75-year-old said: “A few weeks ago, I remember she said to me never lose your sense of humour and she always had a twinkle in her eye. She was a duchess until the end. I’m going to miss her, we all will, and you won’t see her like again for a while- she was a one off.”

Margaret was born on September 27, 1928 in Blaenavon, South Wales, and moved to London after her father William Barry joined the police force there.

Evacuated briefly to a Hampshire village at the start of the war, after an unhappy spell the oldest of three siblings found herself back with family in her birth town.

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Described affectionately as “ever wayward”, growing into her teenage years she could characteristically be found sliding down the slopes of mountains on a tea tray.

And it was towards the end of these same teenage years, and once the war had ended, that she studied business at Pitman’s College, London, before working as a secretary for the British Council.

It was here that she met John Crisp, whom she married in 1947.

Still working for the Council, she quickly joined him in Jerusalem, where among her many duties she had to go to the harem of King Abdullah with footage of Prince Philip and the Queen getting married.

However, they had returned back to London by 1949, and Margaret, who began working at a solicitors, went on to have three children.

One of her two daughters, Sue McGuire, has fond memories of her early years. The 61-year-old said: “She was the best. She was my friend as well as my mum, and she was always a very young mum in her ways and at heart.

“She wasn’t old fashioned, and she was determined her children would have a relaxed upbringing. She was always there for me.”

It was after Margaret and John Crisp separated that, by 1978, she and Dusty had met and moved to Gorleston.

And it was there that, as well as working their day jobs, they decided to set up Dusmagrik Young People’s Theatre in 1985 in a room above the Kevill Arms, combining their contrasting, but complimentary talents. Starting with six students, they put on their first show- A Piece of the Night.

Dusty said: “She was an expert at the administrative side of things whereas I did the more theatrical side of things, though it was a team effort and Margaret was with me all the time.

“They sometimes called us the dynamic duo, or Gorleston’s answer to Hinge and Bracket.”

The group grew in the scale of its productions and charity efforts over the 90s, with the pair were able to devote more time to it after retiring.

They also became involved with St Peter’s Church, as faith was an important bedrock in both of their lives.

However, with Margaret’s health failing due to a long battle with emphysema and Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease, they handed over the reins of their drama group in 2006 after a performance of Calamity Jane at Gorleston Pavilion.

It was the last of more than 40 shows that they had helped create.

Dusty commented that in the following years spent together at their home, Meadow Court, Margaret remained her old determined self despite increasingly ill health.

She added that as it was St David’s Day when her partner died, and in keeping with tradition, the house was full of daffodils “which she loved, and I put them there by her as she lay.”

Plans for the funeral have not been finalised, but it will take place at St Peter’s Church, Gorleston.