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Marguerita Moorcroft Obituary

March 2, 2021

My friend Marguerita Moorcroft, who has died aged 96 of Covid, became the first female assistant official receiver, working in the Insolvency Service, at a time when the higher echelons of the civil service were something of an old boys’ club.

Marguerita was born in Southport, Lancashire, to Annie Moorcroft; she did not know her father. After contracting polio when she was three, she was left at an orphanage in Liverpool. Her childhood there was almost Dickensian. Aged 13 she was forced to leave school and go into service as a maid but found the role difficult due to disabilities caused by the polio, and was ejected from the house.

She lived briefly in a room with an older girl and her siblings who had also been at the children’s home, before being taken in by a church member in Harrogate, and working again as a maid. Just short of her 17th birthday, she joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force, having lied about her age.

When she left the WAAF, her intellectual potential was spotted by an ex-Oxbridge don she had been introduced to in Harrogate. He gave Marguerita free lessons in Latin and maths, and then she moved to London in 1950 to complete her education.

Lodging at the Christian Alliance of Women and Girls hostel in Millbank, Marguerita worked as a post office clerk while attending night school. In 1952, she gained a place at the Royal Free Medical School – a childhood ambition – but the high fees meant she was unable to complete the training. It was there that she met my mother, Lilianna; they became lifelong friends.

When the hostel closed in1962, Marguerita moved to All Saints House in central London. Following a string of menial jobs, she trained to be a chartered accountant, passing with top marks and getting a job as an articled clerk in 1955. However, this was followed by several spells in hospital. She then spent four years working as an accountant at the Royal National Orthopaedic hospital, before joining the Board of Trade in 1965, rising to become the first female assistant official receiver, dealing with many cases in the high court, and encountering much sexism and elitism.

All Saints House closed in 2002, and Marguerita spent a brief, unhappy spell in a retirement home in Oxford run by nuns, before returning to London for her final move to a flat in East Finchley.

Marguerita embraced life, going on adventurous holidays; learning Russian, Mandarin, Japanese and carpentry; and, in 1969, gaining her private pilot’s licence. On retirement she volunteered at the Mary Ward Centre for adult education, became a member of the Pipers’ Guild and raised funds for the Helen House children’s hospice.

She maintained wonderful friendships and always helped people who were disadvantaged, never forgetting her own difficult start in life.

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