Hundreds attend service to celebrate the life of former teacher and community activist Sue Tamlyn

Sue Tamlyn welcomes visitors in to the newly restored Millers House at Pakenham Water Mill in 2008
Sue Tamlyn welcomes visitors in to the newly restored Millers House at Pakenham Water Mill in 2008

About 300 people attended a thanksgiving service to celebrate the life of former Bury St Edmunds teacher and community activist Sue Tamlyn.

Mrs Tamlyn, who passed away aged 82 last month, was heavily involved with numerous organisations in the town as she carried out her lifelong ambition of helping society’s marginalised and disadvantaged.

She was a total inspiration and role model to women everywhere.

Julia Wakelam

Her son Justin Hayes said: “Her commitment to people allowed her to combine a love of parties, high culture and high society with a practical socialism that was committed to removing barriers to improved wellbeing that people faced.”

Born in Hertfordshire, Mrs Tamlyn attended Manchester University to study Economics and the city, with its poverty and poor housing conditions at that time, shaped her commitment to left wing politics. She married her first husband Martin Hayes in 1955 and lived in London where she worked as an analyst for Shell.

They moved to Bury in 1964 when Mr Hayes was appointed as consultant anaesthetist at West Suffolk Hospital.

Juggling motherhood with part time work and an enthusiasm for Bury life, Mrs Tamlyn was invited to participate with the Friends of the Theatre Royal. She was a firm advocate of Suffolk’s countryside and buildings and served as chairman and member of Suffolk Preservation Society as well as the Suffolk Building Preservation Trust - obtaining funds to develop Pakenham Water Mill and gaining museum status for Little Hall, in Lavenham.

Mrs Tamlyn was involved in the Bury Society for 45 years, was an active supporter of the Bury Labour Party from the late 1960s until 1981 when she joined the SDP and was a borough councillor.

Another lifelong theme was her commitment to women’s rights. In the late 1970s she joined the board of the West Suffolk Health Authority followed by the Anglian Water Authority.

She was awarded an MBE for her support of the ‘built heritage of Suffolk’ in 2009.

Mrs Tamlyn became a part time teacher at Silver Jubilee and County Upper Schools in the late 60’s teaching subjects including statistics, politics and British constitution and she even learnt to drive the school minibus. She was then head of sixth form at King Edward’s School where ‘her loud voice and strident views amused, inspired and challenged generations of students’.

After her retirement in 1994, she worked as a Citizens Advice Bureau adviser for 22 years. She used her accountancy skills as a treasurer for the Suffolk Association for the Blind and was involved with various other organisations.

Mrs Tamlyn married her second husband Bob in 1974 and when he became ill and had to live in a nursing home in 2011, she became a lay inspector of care homes and nursing homes for Healthwatch.

Mr Tamlyn died in August this year. Mrs Tamlyn passed away peacefully at home, in Bury, on October 9 and about 300 people attended a thanksgiving service at the cathedral.

As a friend of Sue Tamlyn for 40 years, Julia Wakelam spoke at her thanksgiving service on behalf of the people of Bury.

Mrs Wakelam, who is the mayor of St Edmundsbury, said: “She was a total inspiration and role model to women everywhere.

“We’re all devastated by her loss. I went to see her in the hospital and she was incandescent about the plight of the refugees in Calais and that was Sue - she always looked out for other people.

“Her personal integrity was cast iron.

“She was such good fun and would make you laugh.”

Jane Ballard, district manager at Suffolk West Citizens Advice Bureau, said Sue was ‘always ready to argue the case if a client would be disadvantaged by the regulations, always attended volunteer meetings and contributed ideas’.

Her knowledge of ‘everything that was going on in Bury made her invaluable in the office’.

“Sue was a strong character, with little patience for bureaucracy and the unnecessary layers of communication within some of the larger statutory agencies,” Mrs Ballard said.  “However, she could be extraordinarily kind to clients in need, and would fight for them whenever it was needed.  

“She got on well with the team of advisers she worked with, and enjoyed a good discussion whenever there was time, but as someone said ‘you would always rather be on her side than against her!’.

“She had a huge zest for life, and a fantastic sense of humour which made working with her great fun and a privilege, and we will all miss her.”

She leaves her brother, three sons, a stepson, eight grandchildren, a niece, great nephew and great niece.