Tributes to mum who 'moved mountains to make things happen'

Margaret Laflin was a known for being a force to be reckoned with.

Margaret Laflin was a known for being a force to be reckoned with. She was a friend, wife, mother and grandmother, and someone who made things happen. Pictured left with her beloved husband, Denis. - Credit: Family of Margaret Laflin

As residents of Flowton celebrated the renovation of their historic church last week, for many, their thoughts returned to the woman who had got the ball rolling, but did not live to see it completed. 

Margaret Laflin was by all accounts a larger-than-life character, and well-known and loved by the whole village. 

Margaret was born on May 19 1934, to Mabel and Wally Webb. She had no siblings, but remained close with her childhood friend, Jen, well into adulthood.  

The pair would often spend the day together out on their bicycle, picnicking, bird watching and checking nests for eggs.

Margaret was very artistic, and together they catalogued the birds they had seen, with Margaret filling a book with drawings, which Jen kept safe for many years. 

“Another story mum would tell from childhood days was how a shire horse stood on her foot and broke it,” remembers Margaret’s daughter, Sally Francis. 

“She never told her mother, as she would have stopped her visiting the horses, so she walked on a broken foot for weeks.” 

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Aged 15, Margaret started attending the local church multiple times a day each Sunday, with Jen in tow. A friendship blossomed with Ron Francis, the vicar’s son, and, in 1955, they wed, with Jen as a proud bridesmaid. 

The couple moved to London shortly after marrying, where Ron became vicar of a church in Highbury.

Margaret threw herself into life as a vicar’s wife, and formed many strong friendships and bonds within community. The couple’s three children arrived in quick succession: Simon, Elaine and Sally.  

Margaret loved the Suffolk countryside, particularly the wildlife.

Margaret loved the Suffolk countryside, particularly the wildlife. She spent many years working on farms, before moving to Gunns Farm with her second husband, Denis. - Credit: Family of Margaret Laflin

In 1968, Ron took up the position of Rector for Flowton, Somersham, Offton and Willisham, and the family returned to Suffolk.

Margaret, Sally says, fell deeply in love with the county, and would remain here for the next 52 years.  

During this time, Margaret started work at local farms, and became renowned for her skill delivering calves. 

“She reared over 30,000 calves, the deformed fingers on her right-hand testimony to the number of calves she taught to drink milk from a bucket.  

“She was strong and fit, and loved to tell the story of an escaped calf being chased across the fields to Wattisham, where she - at the age of 70 - single-handedly rugby-tackled the calf to the ground with police helicopters circling overhead.” said Sally. 

Margaret had a reputation for being a skilled rearer of calves, and reared around 30,000 of them.

Margaret had a reputation for being a skilled rearer of calves, and reared around 30,000 of them. - Credit: Family of Margaret Laflin

Tragically, Ron died in a car accident in 1981, which also claimed the life of David, Simon, Elaine and Sally’s cousin.  

A widow in her forties, Margaret moved to Elmsett Road, just outside the village of Flowton.  

However, she was lucky enough to find love again, and married Denis Laflin, her ‘Mr Darcy,’ in 1983, and the couple moved to Gunns Farm. 

Margaret’s family will remember has as a woman full of determination. 

“Mum’s stubborn and sometimes obstinate nature could be infuriating, but it was this independent streak that meant she moved mountains to make things happen, at times when others might have given up,” said Sally. 

“She was a fearless adventurer. In Australia, at the age of 77, she skydived out of a plane at 10,000ft. 

“At 82, she rode with the wind in her hair in a sportscar, a speedboat and a helicopter. She went up in a microlight aircraft, powered by a lawnmower engine, being chased by an approaching storm.” 

Margaret found love with her second husband, her 'Mr Darcy,' Denis Laflin.

Margaret found love with her second husband, her 'Mr Darcy,' Denis Laflin. They enjoyed three decades of happiness together, until he died in 2013. - Credit: Family of Margaret Laflin

Margaret was devastated to lose Denis in 2013, but was comforted by the fact that they had spent 31 happy years together. 

Margaret continued to live life to the full, even after being diagnosed with ovarian cancer in April of 2019. 

“She wanted to die on an auspicious day, and you can’t get more auspicious than the 29th of February, being a leap year,” said Sally. 

Margaret Laflin died at home, on the morning of February 29, 2020. 

She is survived by seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. 

Last Sunday, St Mary's Church in Flowton, celebrated the completion of £91,000 renovation works.

Judith Ewing paid tribute to the "powerhouse" that got the ball rolling on the project more than six years ago. 

She said: “She was a powerhouse. She would still run around given the chance. You’d never have thought she was in her mid-eighties.

“Despite her illness, Margaret managed to come and see the church progressing, but she handed it to over to me, and made sure I knew her vision for it, and that it would be finished to her standards.