Peggy Eileen Durrant was born in Brighton in October 1929, the second of three children and the only daughter to Edmund, a builder’s labourer, and Zilpah, an ironer in a laundry. They lived in a two-up, two-down terraced house with outside facilities. Her elder brother Eddie had the back bedroom, and Peggy shared the other with her parents and baby brother Brian.
She worked hard at infant school and was top of the class when she left. Junior school was more of a challenge, and her schooling in Brighton was interrupted when she was evacuated in 1941 with her mum and younger brother Brian to Yorkshire, where they stayed for a year. On returning to Brighton, mum moved to another school, where she met Margaret, who became her best friend.
In her younger years, Peggy was a Brownie, a Patrol Leader in Guides, and a Ranger, as well as being a keen amateur pantomime performer. She played the title role as principal boy in both Aladdin and Robin Hood at her church hall, she also wrote and was principal boy in Jack and the Beanstalk. Years later, Mark and Jill had the old costumes in their dressing-up box at home, which must have inspired them, as they both later followed her onto the stage.
After leaving school, she and Margaret went to Box’s Commercial College for a year and studied secretarial skills and book-keeping. Peggy left in April 1946 with an “Efficiency Certificate” proclaiming her 120 words a minute in shorthand and 45 words a minute in typing. She remembered her parents being very proud of her achievement! With Mr. Box’s support, she started her first Job at Bostel’s Builders and was happy there for a few years.
She then joined the gas board as a secretary and found herself in the same office as Audrey, another friend for life. In the next office was a young accounts clerk called Don Durrant and she caught his eye. The rest, as they say, is history! When they got engaged, her boss took them up to London to his box at the Royal Albert Hall for a classical concert to celebrate.
Peggy and Don married 64 years ago, in June 1957 and they moved into their first home in Hove. Mark came along as an early Christmas present in 1960, and Jill followed in 1965.
Don had taken a job in Bognor Regis in 1960, but the family did not move to the town until 1966, to a house in Devonshire Road, where they stayed for 47 years. Soon after arriving in Bognor, the family began worshipping here at St. Wilfrid’s.
Peggy had a busy life raising two youngsters, but she also worked hard for her community. She was clerk to the Parochial Church Council here for many years, and the family remember her typing stencils at home for the parish magazine, to be printed on a Roneo duplicator. She also supported the primary school where Mark and Jill both went, Nyewood. She began as clerk to the governors, eventually being nominated as a church governor at the school and she loved going in to read with the children and watch their productions.
Here at church, she was part of the flower arranging team for 40 years, starting in 1986, with many of her friends and fellow parishioners, including Heather. She joined the Church Wives’ group 3 years later. She has served more cups of tea in the hall after services than I can imagine and was involved with the Christian Aid lunches for more than 24 years.
From their first days together, Peggy and Don shared a loved of dancing, particularly the samba, and they had many opportunities to dance together at Masonic ladies’ nights over the years. Peggy also enjoyed Scottish Country Dancing for many years, and once she could no longer enjoy dancing herself, she still went along with her friends to watch, apparently enjoying a whisky and a cigarette in the pub afterwards, at least until she gave up smoking in 1976! Eventually, she, Ann Foster and Mary Kemp switched from an evening in the pub to an afternoon tea, but the chat continued as always!
Throughout their marriage, Peggy was a strong support to Don in all he did – in his career, but also in his other activities in Freemasonry and Rotary. Though she never liked to be the centre of attention, she did join the Inner Wheel club, for the partners of Rotary members.
After the club in closed in 1988, her Presidential year, she continued with a few of the former members in an informal group known as Club 88.
In 2013, when Peggy and Don were already in their eighties, they decided to move, not to a smaller bungalow, but to a larger house, just around the corner. Peggy said “yes” to the house as soon as she had got into the hall, without seeing the rest of it. I know that it was a very happy home for them both.
Family and friends were always important to Peggy and there is a large group of for whom she will always be Auntie Peggy. She was a loving and supportive mother to Mark and Jill, and in time became Grandma to Ellie and Sally. More recently, when she and Don became great-grandparents, she decided that “great-grandma” made her sound too old, so she became GG Peggy to Henry and Atticus. The family had a wonderful time at her 90th birthday party when the boys were whizzing around the tables as youngsters do!
And so we remember and celebrate the life of Peggy, a very much loved wife, Mum, Auntie, Grandma, GG and friend. When Don, Mark and Jill were calling friends and family to let them know she had gone, all said much the same things: that she was a lovely lady, and that she will be very much missed. She could have no finer epitaph than that.