Unifying link between two great families
Lady Waley-Cohen, who lived on Exmoor and was the wife of a highly-regarded Lord Mayor of London, has died aged 93.
She had the distinction of belonging two of the most distinguished Anglo-Jewish families of the 20th century – the first by birth and the second by marriage.
Born on January 20 1920, Joyce Constance Ina Nathan was the daughter of Harry Nathan.
He was a lawyer and had been an Army officer who had served in Malta and Gallipoli before arriving in France for the Battle of the Somme in 1916. He was shot through the back of the head but made a remarkable recovery and went on to become the Liberal Party candidate for Whitechapel and St George's.
Later he crossed to the Labour benches and was created an hereditary peer in 1940, rising to Under Secretary for War and Minister for Civil Aviation under Attlee's Labour government. His wife Eleanor was Labour chairman of the Greater London County Council and a prominent figure in the Jewish community. Their daughter Joyce attended St Felix School, Southwold, and Girton College, Cambridge, and then worked as an administrator at the Ministry of Fuel and Power in London, where Bernard Waley-Cohen, six years her senior, was a principal alongside Harold Wilson.
The Daily Telegraph reported this week: "A broad-shouldered, ruggedly handsome figure, Waley-Cohen was the son of a leading industrialist who had negotiated the merger of Shell with the Royal Dutch Oil Company. After they married they split their time between a house in St James's, Piccadilly, and Honeymead, a 1,000-acre farm estate on the edge of Exmoor, where they bred sheep and kept a herd of pedigree Devon cattle."
Bernard Waley-Cohen became Lord Mayor in 1960, when he and his wife moved for a year with their four young children to Mansion House, the mayor's 18th-century official residence. There Joyce Waley-Cohen planned every social gathering meticulously, and appeared at the Lord Mayor's banquet in a white satin dress loaded with rhinestones. The following year the family embarked on a tour of Australia, which included the first official visit to Melbourne ever undertaken by a Lord Mayor.
When his period of office ended, Bernard Waley-Cohen was created a baronet.
The Daily Telegraph reported: "In the next decades Joyce Waley-Cohen took on many public service roles: she was a governor of her old school in Southwold, and of Taunton School and Wellington College. A firm believer in the value of single-sex education , she was a member of the Girls' Schools Association from 1963 to 1975, including five years as chairman.
"For 16 years she was on the board of governors at Westminster Hospital and a chairman of Westminster Children's Hospital."
From the 1980s Lady Waley-Cohen's life centred on Exmoor, where she had learnt to ride to hounds and become a great supporter of the Devon and Somerset Staghounds. She also fostered a talent for spinning and dyeing wool, and inaugurated the craft tent at the Exford Show – then a striking innovation.
Sir Bernard Waley-Cohen predeceased her in 1991. She is survived by two daughters and two sons, Sir Stephen Waley-Cohen, the impresario, and Robert, owner of, among other racehorses, Long Run, on which Lady Waley-Cohen's grandson, Sam, won the Gold Cup in 2011.