Janet Morris was a very important figure in the Friends of Mitcham Common. She was involved in work to protect the common for many years, and was a keen and active member of the Committee.
Janet died in 2019. She will be sorely missed by all who knew her, and Mitcham Common is richer for her many years of involvement.
Here, some of those who knew Janet share their thoughts.
Martin Boyle (tribute read at funeral) – I first met Janet in the 1980s. As you’ve just heard, at the time the relationship between the Conservators and local residents was somewhat tense and I was rather nervous to meet someone who knew so much about the Common, when I knew so little. I need not have worried because Janet was very gracious towards me and I left feeling that once the ‘tipping’ issue had been resolved, Janet could be a very useful ally. And so it turned out to be.
Over the next 30 or so years Janet and I became friends and met on numerous occasions to discuss the management of the Common. However, we did tend to have a knack of going ‘off topic’! Local Government politicians, religion and music all got a good airing, as did the honours system- Janet had strong views on the dishing-out of ‘gongs’, which is an irony that won’t be lost on some of you! (note: there was talk of nominating Janet for an OBE a few years ago.)
Janet also found time to write a number of well-researched and informative booklets on the ecology and botany of the Common. She was always modest about her publications, but as I sure many of you will agree, these were not only well written and interesting but their technical detail was such that they would not be out of place on an undergraduate’s bookshelf.
For 30 plus years Janet was the ‘guiding force’ of the Mitcham Common Preservation Society/Friends of Mitcham Common. She and I collaborated on many projects and although we were usually on the same page, others were sometimes lukewarm. Janet often came to my rescue and by patient discussion persuaded the detractors that the project was absolutely necessary. Of course even Janet could not convince everyone all of the time, we both understood that tree removal is an emotive subject and when someone sprayed ‘tree murderers’ on a fence, Janet simply said to me “oh well, some people just don’t understand and probably never will”. At the time, that was just what I needed to hear!
I have only touched on Janet’s many considerable achievements and the support she gave me over a great many years, but I sincerely hope that, with guidance from Roger and William, the Conservators and Friends can agree a permanent memorial to Janet, who I consider to have done more to promote and conserve Mitcham Common than any other person in living memory.
Dr Jean Mooney – I first met Janet when she knocked at our door, on a Sunday afternoon, way back in February 1985, just 3 days after we moved into our house, to invite us to become life members of the then Mitcham Common Preservation Society. Of course we did – who could resist those gentle powers of persuasion? Janet was a dear friend, a very kindly neighbour and a champion of local needs. She was a great lady who will be greatly missed, but her memory will reverberate on into the future by the fact that Mitcham Common owes so much to her tireless work and those redoubtable powers of persuasion.
Marian Thurley – I remember one of the warden led walks on the Common, it must have been late eighties/early nineties. We were looking for different types of fungus, and we stopped where Janet thought she had seen a particularly unusual variety. She asked Martin if he knew exactly where it was and he replied, “Actually Mrs Morris, it is just where you are standing”. Janet leapt in the air as if she had been stung, and the expression of horror on her face was priceless! Everybody burst out laughing, except Janet of course, who was rather flustered for a while! No harm came to the fungus.
Sarah Gould – She was a lovely lady and so dedicated and informative on the subject of Mitcham Common. I am fortunate to have benefited from her help and support when researching the topic for Heritage Centre exhibitions and events in previous years – it is good that she was able to enjoy walks on her beloved Common right up to the end of her life. I am sure she will be sadly missed by the Friends and Commons Conservators, as well as the representatives of local heritage organisations.
Margaret Pooley – I remember going on her Mitcham Common walks when I first retired from work, she was always so interesting and knowledgeable.
Nick Draper – It is clear from Janet’s books that she had a thorough knowledge of, and love for, the Common; but Martin tells me that, far beyond that, she was perhaps the Common’s most persistent ambassador in both the last century and this one, and indeed that her work went a long way towards making the Common the place it is today.
Muriel Levin – I knew Janet since she attended my piano class in the 80’s and she also attended Holiday Music, the residential music course which I founded in 1990, for 27 years! I also remember her ferocious letters in the Wimbledon Guardian in the 70’s, before we actually met. A great lady and great loss …..
Stuart Routledge – Janet was a dear wise friend and support when I was involved with the Friends. Her historical role should not be forgotten, perhaps a tribute on the Common somewhere.
Gwen Nixon – She was a lovely lady and will be sadly missed by so many. I remember her from years ago when I would see her pushing her boys to school, little did I know then of her great love of Mitcham Common, I learnt that long after, her knowledge was second to none.
Catherine McCann – Although I know that Janet was very old – somehow I thought she would go on forever! It’s lovely to think that till virtually the very end she was able to get out and about on her beloved Common. She will really be missed.
Melanie Nunzet – I first met Janet at Friends’ committee meetings which used to be held at her house. She once gave a series of fascinating talks at the Ecology Centre which were followed by a walk to look at the plants and flowers which she had told us about. I especially remember Janet striding over the busy golf course, full of players, and showing us the various tiny ponds in the middle which we had no idea existed. I’m sure I would never find them again, or be brave enough to go into the middle of the golf course, as she did. It was her Common!