My type of relation Or: A fine Boddy of a man

Shortly before Christmas, I decided to check through notes I’d left myself a few weeks earlier, indicating that half cousins the Malletts needed further work {1}.

Flora Mallett married Frank Webb 1917 in Norwich. A search on Ancestry’s database came up with three daughters – Muriel,  Margaret and Ileane, all born Norwich. Ileane died young, so nothing further to search for, but Margaret got to marry Wilfred Henry Ward (1946), and Muriel married Jack R Boddy in 1943. It didn’t take long for a couple of obituaries for Jack to appear:

Jack Boddy Guardian Obit headerI’m a Guardian reader but The Independent has the edge here, dated over a week later.  You will note the discrepancy that his wife is Merle, rather than Muriel, but everything else matches. While not a particularly common variant on Muriel, I have found enough others to be happy. And the death registration is as Muriel.

An active and progressive life

Having just been researching some other relatives who didn’t seem to be ones I’d actually want to meet, it was particularly pleasing to read about Jack. Here are a few extracts:

  • From The Independent: Boddy was born into a Quaker family; his mother, Lucy, was one of the first left-wing women to be made a Justice of the Peace {2}.
  • From The Guardian: He really wanted to become a vet, but his parents couldn’t afford to pay for the training. He soon became a cowman and by the age of 22 had become farm manager and a trade union activist, collecting union dues from other workers almost from the time he left school.
  • From The Guardian: his school teacher wife Merle … shared his political views, and together they won seats on the district council. Jack was twice the mayor of Swaffham and also a Norfolk county councillor, and became leader of its Labour group.
  • From The Independent: In 1978, Boddy emerged victorious in a closely contested election to be General Secretary of the NUAW (National Union of Agricultural Workers). …. By the late 1970s, the NUAW had dwindling membership and had got into deep financial difficulty  from which it was rescued by …. Jack Boddy.
  • From The Guardian: The union and the Labour party dominated his life, though he was never a “yes” man and was often critical of the establishment within the union and the way in which he felt that successive Labour governments sided with employers rather than the workers. … He resigned from the party over Iraq, after more than 50 years membership.

Maybe not a blood relation, but still good to have a strong and progressive agricultural trade unionist in the family!


1. Benjamin Mallett, born 1857 Madras, India, married Eliza Blyth, a daughter of 2 x great grandmother Harriet Smith – Harriet first married Robert Neal then, after his death, John Blyth.

2. Lucy’s maiden name is probably Lucy May Howes, despite the marriage transcription saying Howe. This makes her distantly related on the Neal side – her father John Joseph Howes born 1862 Norwich is, according to Family Tree Maker “uncle of wife of a great uncle” – that’s the Arterton/Andrews connection to Henry Neal.

3. There is a Jack Boddy Way in Swaffham, possibly a Merle Boddy Community Centre in Swaffham too (it may have closed), and a Merle Boddy House care home in Dereham.

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