Obituary: Rosemary Helen Morgan Westley

A mover and shaker but someone who never sought the glory’ … this is how family members have described local business woman Rosemary Westley, who sadly passed away on January 27.

Rosemary lost her battle to long-term illness aged 73, just days before the shutters closed of stationers Morgan-Westley – a Portishead institution established by Rosemary in 1966.

The business started from home, with Rosemary providing typesetting for big name publishers such as Pitman, Macmillan and Oxford University Press. Rosemary used her middle name Morgan to make her company sound more corporate, and to give her an equal footing against big businesses. In 1985, Morgan-Westley officially opened on the High Street and it soon flourished as a popular one-stop shop at the heart of Portishead, selling anything from stationery to tickets for local events.

Before setting up Morgan-Westley, Rosemary trained as a secretary at Bristol College of Commerce in Unity Street. Her exceptional grades then landed her a job as the departmental secretary for Bath University’s School of Mathematics in Ashley Down, Bristol – and it was there that she forged relationships with many notable publishing houses.

It was also at the university that another special relationship formed. Rosemary met husband Matt, who later became her business partner at Morgan-Westley. Matt intrigued Rosemary after she spotted him wearing a large gabardine raincoat on a hot summer’s day … it later transpired that he had split his trousers and was using the coat to cover up! The couple married on April Fools’ Day, 1967.

Rosemary was born in Redland to Betty and Harry Iles on August 4, 1945, just as World War 2 was coming to an end.  She also shared her birthday with the Queen Mother, which meant that every year, Rosemary would celebrate to the soundtrack of the National Anthem. She was the fourth of six children – Jeremy, Lesley, Hilary, Gregory and Ruth. Rosemary’s mother was a headmistress and her father, a councillor.

Rosemary moved to Portishead with her parents and siblings when she was a young teenager. The town became a place Rosemary loved and despite shying away from the limelight, she was admired for the endless energy she gave to supporting and promoting causes of the community. She was instrumental in setting up the Christmas lights committee and was president of the Chamber of Trade. Rosemary’s contribution to Portishead was recognised when she and Matt were presented with the honour of turning on last year’s Christmas lights. Rosemary was always humbled when her efforts were noticed, but never failed to acknowledge and give credit to others at the same time.

Growing up, Rosemary won many medals for ballroom dancing. She also loved swimming and would regularly take part in the Portishead long swim, from Battery Point to Sugar Loaf Beach. Rosemary could play piano and amazed others with her rapid typing skills … she set several typing books, and frequently tested her typing speed at over 200 words a minute. Her speed was greater than the world record, but she was not interested in putting herself forward for formal recognition. Rosemary was also creative – one year, when money was tight, she made presents for all the family and when her youngest daughter, Jessica, got married, Rosemary produced the most astonishing table displays and bouquets, using the flowers that she had specially planted in her front garden.

Rosemary was most happy when tending to her garden and she loved animals – particularly her cats, of which she had photos next to her desk in the shop. She enjoyed watching birds and took great pleasure in seeing all the different species that frequent Portishead marina, where she later resided.

Rosemary’s life was commemorated on February 14 at a funeral service held at St Peter’s Church, Portishead. Flowers were arranged specially by her family as a tribute to Rosemary.

Rosemary is survived by husband Matt, children Dan, Alice and Jessica and six grandchildren.

Obituary printed in March issue of Portisheadvoice

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About Rebecca Day

I’m a Bristol-based journalist and media consultant, specialising in communications and marketing for local schools.