A RESPECTED former Master of the Gild of Freemen of York and life-long glider pilot has died at the age 96.

Moyra Foxton Johnson became a freeman in 1981 shortly after City of York Council agreed to reinstate the admission of women.

As well as being involved in the Gild for many years, Mrs Johnson was also a keen glider pilot, having learned to fly in a home-made aircraft off Sutton Bank, before the Second World War.

Born in 1915, Mrs Johnson was the daughter of Hilda Foxton and Henry Horsley, who was the brother of respected York gunsmith Thomas Horsley, and it was through her uncle that she able to be accepted into the Gild. She went on to marry Ernest Johnson in 1938, who was manager of the Picture House in Coney Street, up to its closure in the mid-50s.

Fellow Gild member, Peter Stanhope said: “She was very very keen on protecting the rights and freedoms of the Freemen of York. She was a very nice lady and quite a character.”

A long-term resident of Tower Place, close to the River Ouse, she was a vocal opponent of plans to put a big wheel close to her home in 2005, famously saying: “I don’t want to see 250,000 people through my bedroom window, and I don’t want 250,000 people seeing me through the window.”

Mrs Johnson’s other passion was flying, something she was still doing until a few years before her death. She had an apartment at Yorkshire Gliding Club at Sutton Bank, where she would often spend a week at a time.

In 2009, as president of the club, and at the age of 93, she was still taking to the skies to mark the 75th anniversary of glider flights at Sutton Bank.

At the time, she said: “I was 20 years old when I got my glider licence. I was so competitive and it meant I didn’t want to be beaten by the boys. I did it just for fun and I never entered any competitions. I can still fly in two-seaters now and I still get a thrill out of it.

“It’s a good life and it’s really exciting to be up there in a glider.”

Richard Helstrip, current Master of the Gild of Freeman, Richard Helstrip said: “She will be greatly missed by all freemen who knew her, not only in York but across the country.”

Mrs Johnson died at St Helen’s rehabilitation centre on Tadcaster Road, following a fall in her home. A service of committal will be held at All Saints, pavement at 12.45pm on Monday.