FORMER Life Boys’ members have paid tribute to the woman who led the group in South Oxford for five decades.

Marjorie Cowley, who was awarded the British Empire Medal for her efforts in 1979, has died aged 102.

When the former secretary celebrated her 100th birthday several of her former Life Boys, who are now in their 70s and 80s, visited her at Cherwood House care home, in Caversfield, Bicester.

Sunday school teacher Miss Cowley’s life was to change in 1929 when the Rev David Stather Hunt, the vicar of St Matthew’s Church, in South Oxford, asked her to play piano at the meetings of the Life Boys.

She soon became the group’s leader and held the position until 1966, when the group’s name changed to the junior section of the Boys’ Brigade. She then took on the role of officer in charge of the unit until she retired in 1980.

Oxford Mail:

  • With the British Empire Medal in 2001

Alan Bowsher, 86, who was nine when he joined the group said she had influenced the lives of hundreds of the members.

He said: “She was loved by everyone as Miss Cowley.

“So much so, that when she retired the boys’ mothers were so impressed on the effect she had on their boys, that they campaigned, and succeeded, in Marjorie being awarded the British Empire Medal.”

Mr Bowsher, secretary of the Oxford Stedfast Association, for former Boys’ Brigade members, remained friends and continued to visit her after she moved to Bicester.

Oxford Mail:

  • Fourth from left of the front seated row with the Life Boys

Born in Oxford, Miss Cowley was one of five children. She never married and lived with her late sister Gladys in Chilswell Road, South Oxford, for several years.

Her great niece Linda Mitchell said: “Auntie Marj had a wicked sense of humour, and that combined with her religious beliefs and her understanding of modern day habits, made her all the more special.

Oxford Mail:

  • In uniform

“My overwhelming memory is of her lovely smile, she was always cheerful, even when in later years she was often crippled really badly with arthritis. She would turn it into a joke and say Mr Arthur Ritus was visiting her again.”

Miss Cowley died on March 21 and her funeral will take place on Friday, April 11, at Banbury Crematorium, at 3pm.