A PIONEER of the playgroup movement in York and committed volunteer and fundraiser has died aged 84.
Watford-born Dilys Longman grew up in London, and spent time in north Wales as a wartime evacuee. She later lived for many years in Bishopthorpe, Tadcaster, Thornton-le-Dale, Sheriff Hutton and Slingsby.
As a mother of five, grandmother of 13, and great-grandmother of four, Dilys was committed to her family and was involved in voluntary work throughout her life.
Dilys and husband Ford arrived in Yorkshire in 1961 when Ford started work with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. They moved to Bishopthorpe with their children.
There, Dilys and the Archbishop’s chaplain formed a playgroup, which proved a lasting success.
Dilys went on to become known as “the playgroup granny” and was appointed the Yorkshire area organiser for playgroups after being elected chairman of the York group, travelling all over Yorkshire setting up playgroups.
During that time, she was also elected to Tadcaster Rural District Council.
The only woman on the council, she pushed through a number of changes.
She persuaded the council to update all the kitchens in council houses and provide public seats in parks. She also fought for improved terms and conditions for refuse collectors, earning the title Councillor For The Dustmen.
Dilys worshipped at Clifford Street and New Earswick Quaker Meetings, serving as an elder and overseer. She briefly taught at The Mount School and later Acomb Primary and was active with the national lobby group the Campaign For Advancement of State Education.
Her husband’s work eventually took the family to Leeds and then Scotland, where Dilys’s work with playgroups continued until 1980 when she and Ford fell in love with the ruined 12th century Healaugh Priory, near Tadcaster.
They bought it, and restored it to use as a home and B&B, with Dilys also turning jam-making into a business, and even selling goats’ milk and cheese for a time.
Later they lived in Thornton-le-Dale and Sheriff Hutton, and continued running a B&B, with Dilys selling thousands of jars of jam at craft fairs and the proceeds going to children’s charities, notably the National Children’s Home, now Action For Children.
During her life, Dilys was a member of Ryedale Liberal Democrats Association, the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, UNICEF, the Yorkshire Countrywomen’s Association and the National Trust, among others.
In the mid-1990s, with the onset of Parkinson’s, Dilys found a cottage in Slingsby where she and Ford lived until her death earlier this month.