Some community leaders’ gift is to conjure solutions to problems and promote their ideas. Others roll up their sleeves and remove the problem by sheer hard graft.
Former Bexhill Town Mayor Megan Traice MBE, who has died aged 92, was very much in the sleeve-rolling category.
Megan will be remembered not only as a campaigning local councillor for the former Bexhill Ratepayers and Residents Association but as the founder of St Jude’s Womens’ Refuge and as someone who battled to save Bexhill Museum.
When Megan was confronted with the pain and anguish suffered by victims of domestic violence she did more than wring her hands. She campaigned to create St Jude’s as a safe haven.
Finding suitable premises was but the first step on a long and difficult road. She faced immediate opposition from the local community, concerned that vengeful husbands and partners would bring violence to the locality. With the doughty support of the then Rector of St Peter’s, Canon Michael Townroe – who told parishioners he would quit if they continued to oppose the scheme – Megan pressed ahead.
To publicise her fund-raising scheme she staged an open day. This revealed that her chosen premises were in dire need of refurbishment. Cue Megan’s characteristic roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-on-with-it approach, shown to its best effect.
With the help of her husband, retired sub-mariner Phil, and a dedicated team of volunteers, Megan confounded her doubters and opened a swiftly but effectively refurbished premises which quickly became a much-valued haven for victims of domestic violence and their children. She later oversaw the refuge’s move into purpose-built premises.
When it became apparent to Megan that primary school provision in her east Bexhill patch was sadly lacking she braided the county education authority. Initially, this was to no avail, the council arguing that there were sufficient places.
Megan’s answer was to canvass the whole of east Bexhill with the Rev Tom Tyler of St Michael’s Church. Together, their door-to-door campaign asking families if they had “rising-five” children produced irrefutable evidence that a new school was needed in a hurry. Pebsham Community Primary School was built as a result.Megan had first become associated with the museum when she served it as Rother District Council’s representative.
Paying tribute to Megan this week the museum’s immediate past chairman John Betts said that she had stepped into the breach when the museum had temporarily been stripped of Rother Council support in 1976. The death in 1983 of Bexhill Museum’s veteran curator Henry Sargent after a remarkable 63 years in office revealed this valued institution to be in dire need of tender loving care.
“In the years that followed I think that without Megan Traice the museum would have closed,” he said. “She was also very much involved later with the extension of the museum.”
One vivid memory exemplifies the Megan Traice approach to problem-solving. When at its lowest ebb, the museum was in desperate need of what would today be termed a deep clean. So Megan rolled up her sleeves, got down on her knees and scrubbed the floor.
In recognition of her work for the museum she was later made its president. It was a post she treasured. She turned up at each annual meeting to thank the volunteers who keep it running until ill health finally prevented her being present.
She supported many local causes, notably those in her local government ward. Typically, she served as secretary for the former Pebsham Players for several years.
Megan was awarded an MBE for her services to the community in 2011. Bexhill Rotary Club honoured her with a Rotary Community & Vocational Service Award in 2009.