‘Time Song’: Jill Mortiboys’ Funeral, 23rd August2022

If you ask Google the question ‘What is a teacher?‘, the site Career Explorer will affirm that ‘A teacher doesn’t only teach. They also inspire and encourage their students to be their best version of themselves’.   As a teacher myself, I feel I must add at this point what all pupils will already know.  That this does not necessarily apply to all teachers.  Very sadly.  But we all know it absolutely did apply to Jill Mortiboys.

The photograph above – included by Jill’s niece Imogen in the Funeral Order of Service – would have been taken before I joined Church High School.  I like it a lot, because it perfectly captures the warm, outgoing woman who greeted me with a firm handshake when I attended for interview on Ascension Day in 1985, the School’s Centenary Year.  Ditto the inspirational Head of Dept. who guided me in my first teaching job and would become my mentor.

I’d like to think that Jill recognised a soulmate in the young Miss Chapman, but she always did see the best in everybody she met.  I owe her a lot, because she clearly saw potential in me I didn’t know was there myself, applying for the job on the back of three years coping with depression whilst at University and through my P.G.C.E.  too.  She must have fought hard for me, as, unbeknownest to me, my mental health was not the only question mark hanging over me.  The eagle-eyed Miss Davies had spotted an ankle bracelet under my tights, I later leaned.  And only certain types of women wore them!

Sarah Timney, taught by Jill in Sixth Form, recalls the impact she had on the Church High of the time: ‘What a breath of fresh air she was!’  There was no pretence about Jill.  What you saw was what you got.  She also made it easy for you to be yourself in her presence too.  You always wanted it to be the ‘best’ version of yourself, of course, but also knew that ‘all would be fine’ as long as you had tried your best.

And so we get to the nub of this particular post: to enable me to share the live video stream of Jill’s Funeral Service with you all.  It was meant to be the best footage possible to achieve, I promise you, as a fitting tribute to Jill’s ‘life well lived.’  And in a way I’m really quite proud of the finished product, because I did do it all myself.  But, despite all my preparation in advance, there were gremlins to contend with when the actual day and time arrived – not least the fact I had just had the clips removed the day before, two weeks after my left knee replacement!  Factor in also a desktop PC for some reason refusing to reveal the relevant link in Outlook at the last minute, forcing me to swap over to my iPad and film the video from its screen with a mobile phone!  I didn’t make too bad a job of it, all things considered, but I could have done without the phone battery draining 2/3 of the way through the Service, it has to be said.  Sorry.

But, determined not to be deterred, I hopped across to the nearest mains plug – fishing out a charger cable enroute across the room – and, in the end, only lost a small segment.  Luckily for me, this was not ‘original copy’ but a letter from one of Jill’s ex pupils being read out by her nephew, Richard.  I hope enough is there to glean the gist

And by the time Plan B took shape, I’d also missed the coffin’s arrival to the accompaniment of The Kinks’ lyrical, quirky ‘Time Song’.  [Click on the YouTube link I’ve just created if you want the full experience.]  Towards the end of the video stream – at an apt point in the Service, I must admit – you will meet one of my cats, Atticus Finch.  Jill would greatly approve of that!  She would also want you to be able to put a face to her dear friend and life-long soulmate, Amanda Arrowsmith, when her name is mentioned.  The picture below was taken in 2015.  Jill lost Amanda about a year and a half ago.  And it was a big loss.   Amanda’s death wasn’t COVID related, but Jill was still one of those poor people who last saw their loved ones going into an ambulance.  She rallied, of course, being the fighter she was.  I take some solace too in knowing that Jill’s last day in her own house was spent with Wimbledon on TV, listening to Test Match Special on the radio too!  That’s the Mortiboys’ full on engagement with life I knew and loved.

Imogen did really well in the send off she gave her Aunt.  It was very, very Jill.  The Service  below lasts just under 40 minutes. Simple, yet moving and profound.  Its uplifting ending was pure joy. Just like Jill.


‘This above all, to thine own self be true …’: Miss Jill Mortiboys’ Funeral Service, 23rd August 2022

Apologies to anyone living in the vicinity of East Anglia who may have been able to attend Jill’s funeral in person.  The invitation was there for all who loved her and wanted to be there for the service.  However, I am recovering from knee replacement surgery – my 3rd orthopedic surgery in 13 months – after having lost my ‘Braveheart’ Father in June, so I’m afraid I forgot about that particular possibility.  My mind was focused on ways of connecting all in spirit on the day.

I’ve kept in touch with Jill’s niece, Imogen, as she’s been planning Jill’s ‘goodbye’.  She has asked me to say a huge thank you on behalf of the family to those of you who sent a card or letter to Jill in the hospice or left a comment on the blog.  Owing to Jill passing over so quickly –  a blessing in limiting her bodily suffering from cancers in more than one place, both primary and secondaries – anything which only hit the post on the Monday following my blog post would have arrived too late for Jill.  But the family have been so supported by both the number and loving content of the cards that were sent.

I know you will be relieved to hear, however, that Jill’s pain was well managed and that she was in good spirits with long patches of lucidity, when she was able to chat and banter with her visitors.  Jill’s great niece, Poppy, who also studied English, read out favourite poems to her, the last one being Larkin’sAn Arundel Tomb’, I believe.  Poppy will either read one of Jill’s favourites in the service or a poem she has written herself for Jill.  Imogen hopes to give the eulogy and her brother, Richard, will read some words.  A close, loving family.  Jill always loved The Kinks, so their ‘Time Song’ will feature, as will a favourite literary masterpiece, E. Lear’s ‘The Owl and the Pussycat.’ 

Although I only worked side by side with Jill for just over 5 years at Church High, her effect on my life was huge, both as a friend and also as a teaching mentor.  I could not have had a better template.  Countless others who knew Miss Mortiboys will feel the same way.  Being an English teacher, it didn’t surprise me that Imogen said Jill wanted her funeral service to stay true to the King James Bible.  What I didn’t know, however, was that Jill had a Unitarian religious upbringing.  Indeed, I had to Google Unitarianism to be sure I was right in my understanding of exactly what their belief system is.

I DID have it largely pinned down, it seems: the Oneness of God; the life and teachings of Jesus as the ultimate model for living one’s own life; and the belief in Free Will.  I didn’t know about the focus on Reason and rational thought, but that certainly was VERY Jill.  It also explains why the list of influential Unitarians includes Erasmus Darwin and Sir Isaac Newton, clearly!  Interesting.  One of the most obvious examples of the oneness of God, of course, is how His energy and power is evident in the natural world.  And Jill so loved her garden and all of God’s animal beings, not least her beloved cats.

For anyone who could still get there in person, the funeral will be held at 11.30 am on Tuesday, 23rd August in the Abbey Chapel of West Suffolk Cemetery and  Crematorium, Bury St Edmunds.  It sounds a wonderful place, created to provide a natural space for families to hold a dignified service of their choice for loved ones.  The Abbey Chapel is their more modern, light and airy space with oak, upholstered chairs seating 60 people, with standing for 20 – 30.

I’m sure we’ll all be there with Jill and family in spirit (if not able to attend in person) thanks to the Service Order Imogen has kindly sent me today.  It can be viewed (or downloaded) by the link below.  The plan is for the service to be videoed.  If anyone does want to watch it back, if you tell me in a comment, I’ll try to send on a link.

Order of Service PDF

If you attended Church High after Jill left (1990) and want to know what she meant to School at the time, that year’s magazine on the Heritage Website contains two tributes to JCM.  Hard to capture such an effervescent nature in a photo, I know, but, hopefully, these images below show the dynamo we all knew as Miss J. C. Mortiboys.

And if you don’t know Philip Larkin’s ‘Arundel Tomb’ very well, its final line seems perfectly fitting here: ‘What will survive of us is love’.