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1st Jul, 2022

Obituary - Tribute paid to former mayor Joan McFarlane

Ian Hughes 11th Dec, 2017

TRIBUTE has been paid to former Stratford mayor and long-time councillor Joan McFarlane who has passed away aged 86.

The proud Stratfordian of 35 years standing, was elected to Stratford Town Council for the first time in 1987, and to Stratford District Council in 1999.

The mum of three was also a keen historian and wrote books titled ‘Historic Cameos’ chronicling lesser known aspects of the town’s history.

Joan had her own historic claim to fame. In 1948 while an 11-year-old schoolgirl in Worcestershire she became on of the first civilians to ever be given penicillin, after she developed a leg infection which was diagnosed as osteomyelitis.

She was taken to Worcester Royal Infirmary where her mum was told she could have to have her leg amputated.

Her stricken mum pleaded with doctors if there was any alternative, and was told there was a new drug they could try, which had previously only been given to injured soldiers. That drug was penicillin, discovered by Scottish scientist and Nobel laureate Alexander Fleming in 1928.

Joan told The Observer: “I was given a pint. It actually looked like a pint of milk, and sat at the end of my bed in hospital and was fed into my thigh via a rubber tube.”

It did the trick, and after further recuperation at home, Joan was as right as rain.

When she left school Joan found herself back in hospital, though this time as a career move, becoming a chartered physiotherapist.

She retired from private practice having worked for over 30 years in the NHS, including a six-year spell at Stratford Hospital.

Roy Lodge, a former mayor himself, remembered a council colleague but above all a friend.

“Joan and I first met when in 1997 we were both standing in the local elections for the district council and canvassing in Alveston and Bridgetown. That was the beginning of our friendship and civic relationship. I have been indebted to her ever since for her support and guidance and above all for her considerable wisdom and experience that she shared with me.

“Above all else it was her down-right honesty and integrity that impressed me most and the personal concern she had for the people she represented as a former mayor and councillor.

“Although Joan had her moments she was much loved by those who understood her. She was funny, she was resilient, autocratic, controversial, she was stubborn, she was caring, she had a deep heartfelt concern to stand up for the overlooked, the voiceless and the scapegoated.

“She had a rather serious face that burst into sunshine when she smiled which she did a lot, and to laugh with her was time well spent. But more than this she was humane, wise, reflective and if she thought something was up or wrong she’d take you on and state her case. There was steel in her when it came to her principles. She wasn’t perfect – she was human. She had an instinctive feel for public appetite always thinking about what the public wanted, needed and expected and with a natural talent for persuading the best out of all who worked for her and with her. She was wise, clear-thinking, courageous and straight as a die. She was happy in her gifts of character and in her undoubted political abilities.

“It was because she felt confident in her ideology that she achieved so much particularly in the fields of education, public health, and in her leadership of the campaign to get Lucy’s Mill bridge upgraded and in the support she gave to the voluntary services. Joan has left us a legacy of dedicated public service – in which to the end she played a straight hand. She was a sincere lady, famous of course for her dry sense humour and her ready wit – but the light-hearted comment so often conveyed a wisdom that one missed if one was not looking for it. Yes she has left us a legacy of laughter and happy memories.

“We are all diminished by her passing as we all give thanks for her life.”

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