Joan Margaret Harrison was born in East Ham on 9th October 1916 where she grew up with her parents, Joseph Harrison and Daisie E.M. Harrison née Hoskins who had married in the Godstone District of East Surrey in the summer of 1912. Her father served in Belgium in the Royal Horse Artillery in the Great War. He was not discharged until 1921. When she had mumps and scarlet fever she was taken to the huge tar vats near the Northern Outfall Sewer bank at the nearby Beckton Gas Works to inhale the tar fumes which helped clear her congested throat. Her school classes were large with up to 50 children. Joan remembered school visits to London Parks and the Tower of London. She had the good fortune to win a school holiday week to Shanklin in April and took a bunch of primroses and violets home for her mother wrapped in a damp handkerchief.
Joan spent the whole of the Second World War working in London. She was called up in 1942 and because she was a clerk-typist she was put in the temporary Civil Service. After the War she passed the Civil Service entrance exam and worked in the Ministry of Food which later became the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (later DEFRA). Her office was located in Horseferry Road, Westminster. She later worked as an auditor. On Shrove Tuesday evening 1942, Joan and her parents were bombed out of their house and a fortnight later moved to Fencepiece Road Barkingside. Joan was also bombed out of her London office and woke up amongst rubble.
Joan did much work at Holy Trinity Church running an Anglican Young People’s Association. She also became a stalwart Sunday School teacher, a member of the Mothers’ Union and a keen member of the Bible Group. Joan cared for her aging parents and became Secretary of the Carers’ Association.
Joan was a lovely lady who took exotic holidays, once canoeing down the Nile. She and her father enjoyed watching cricket and football matches. Both were West Ham United supporters. She was also a steam railway enthusiast.
Although a keen cyclist, Joan bought a VW Beetle car in 1973 which she only sold in 2006. She often visited the housebound and was pleased to run errands. Her own health was not particularly good and deteriorated as she got older. In her last years she lived in Belmont Lodge Nursing Home, Fencepiece Road, but did not give up her bungalow in Waterloo Road.
Despite her adversities she was always kind, thoughtful, cheerful and ever positive. Her mind was alert and her conversation lively. Joan joined the Barking and District Historical Society in 1958 and at one time took the minutes and acted as Publicity Secretary. Joan quietly made substantial donations to the Society over the years. She often recalled being taken home by the legendary Dagenham Librarian John G. O’Leary. Joan was elected a Vice-President of our Society in 1994. Even in her late eighties she was a regular attendee at our monthly meetings and when her failing health did not allow her to attend meetings, she retained a great interest in the Society.
Joan sadly passed away on 3 August 2010 and her funeral took place at her beloved Holy Trinity Church, Barkingside on Monday 23rd August 2010 and was followed by cremation at Forest Park Crematorium, Hainault.
Joan wrote articles about her life for our newsletter. Tributes by David Broomfield and Chris Stoneham appeared in Trinity Times in September 2010.