Arlesey’s Jo takes on half marathon in memory of Royston community stalwart Margaret

Arlesey's Jo Loach ran for Garden House Hospice Care in memory of Margaret MacCormack from Royston.

Arlesey's Jo Loach ran for Garden House Hospice Care in memory of Margaret MacCormack from Royston. Pictures: John Calligan/Jo Loach - Credit: Archant

An Arlesey psychotherapist has taken on the The Great Hertfordshire AONB Half Marathon for Garden House Hospice Care in memory of a Royston community stalwart “who was like a mother to her”.

Jo Loach took on the 13.1-mile run in the grounds of Offley Place Country House Hotel in Great Offley for Margaret MacCormack, who was known in Royston for working and volunteering in the town.

Jo - who as well as having a private practice, also works at Tilehouse Counselling in Hitchin and teaches mental and emotional health within the church - said: "Margaret went into Garden House Hospice last year before she died,so I decided to undertake this challenge as she was such a special lady who gave so much to so many within the community of Royston - as well as being like a mother to me. "Garden House Hospice Care made an enormous difference to her comfort in her last days so I want to raise as much as possible to support the charity's ongoing work.

"I usually run for fun - and to keep up with cake consumption - and training was harder than I anticipated.

"There were many mornings where running was the last thing I wanted to do, but I thought of the cause and that I was doing it for Margaret."

Born in February 1948, Margaret was christened in Royston's parish church and attended Queens Road Primary School and Letchworth Girls Grammar School.

When she left school, she started working at Barclays Bank in Royston High Street. She was also involved in Therfield Chapel, where she dedicated her life to introducing others to Jesus, and met future husband Michael.

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Margaret also worked in Garden Walk Sunday School in Greneway School, eventually leading the youth work on Sundays in the Meridian School youth building.

Her work continued at the Coombes Community Centre when the under-fives room was opened accommodating three different age groups in one building.

There she ran two youth groups on a Friday evening and Ignite group on Sunday afternoons, as well as the Singing Kettle - a drop-in café on Tuesday mornings.

Margaret also worked at the Rainbow Play Group and then as a classroom assistant at Steeple Morden Primary School.

It was there that an inspector suggested that she become a qualified teacher, so she went back to school herself and eventually gained a primary teaching degree in English and an MA in poetry at Cambridge.

She taught at Thriplow Primary School and worked for the ecumenical Christian charity, the BRAVE Trust in Royston and Buntingford.

She could often be seen in Roysia and Freeman schools leading clubs and groups, and arranging visiting performing music and drama groups.

Margaret contracted pancreatic cancer and was diagnosed too late for surgery. She was treated in Lister Hospital in Stevenage and passed away peacefully in Letchworth's Garden House Hospice.

Jo's run - which she completed in 2h35m - has raised more than £2,000 for the hospice in Margaret's memory.

She said: "It went very well, it was really hot on the day and way more hilly than anticipated - some of the hills were so steep.

"I was struggling to catch my breath and I hit a wall at about 16k when I got a stitch, but I walked it out.

"I feel really good about the whole thing - even though the front of my thighs are now are screaming, I'm really thrilled at what I've achieved for Margaret."

To make a donation to Jo's fundraising page, go to