LEATHERHEAD PARISH CHURCH
of the Life of
Alison Wright8th November 1942 - 14th October 2021
Thursday 4th November 2021 at 2.30 pm
St. Mary & St. Nicholas, Leatherhead
Conducted by Canon David Eaton
past Vicar of Leatherhead
This page is based on the texts
provided, amended where
possible from the recording to what was actually delivered.
If you wish to use them, music links have been provided
(you may need to skip advertising)
though you may prefer to listen to the actual recording.
Canon David Eaton:
May I warmly welcome you this afternoon's service. We have come together to remember Alison with much love and thanksgiving.
There are some introductory sentences.
We meet in the name of Jesus Christ who died and was raised to the glory of God the Father. May grace and mercy be with you.
We look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient but the things that are unseen are eternal.
Today we come together to remember before God Catherine Alison Wright, to give thanks for her life and to comfort one another in our grief. Father in heaven we praise your name for all who have finished this life, loving and trusting in you. For the example of their lives, the life and grace you gave them and the peace within which they rest.
We pray to you today for your servant Alison and for all that you did through her.
Meet us in our sadness and fill our hearts with praise and thanksgiving for the sake of our risen Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
I think you will know that we are now singing in church but with masks, for all the obvious reasons. With that constraint may I ask you to sing lustily, with all your might.
Guide me, O thou great Redeemer,
Open now the crystal fountain,
When I tread the verge of Jordan,
Read by Amanda Smith
Matthew 5: 1-12
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he
went up on a mountainside and sat down.
His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.
Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
I’m going to tell you what a few other people have said about Mum and then I’m going to tell you what I think about her.
I think the most telling statement about Mum is the sheer volume of people who’ve been genuinely and deeply upset by her passing.
We’ve received dozens and dozens
of heartfelt letters with an outpouring of love and
affection. Here are just some random phrases:
person I ever met.
She was a collector of people who loved her dearly.
Alison was good with animals and good with people. Kind and generous and fun to be with.
A very special person; lively, entertaining and very knowledgeable.
I really lost a beautiful, kind, pure-hearted person, I will never meet anyone like her.
You get the message.
I know I’m biased but this is a very special person we’re here for.
Perhaps it’s my failing that I never stopped to think about this, but ALL of Mum’s many activities had ONE common thread running through them: they all involved helping other people.
All the committees she sat on, the Hospital Taxi Service, the Geology lectures, the Poppy Appeal, all the work with Prideaux House in Hackney, the two minibuses she owned at one point, were ALL about making other people’s lives better. And there’s so much more.
I know Chris is going to talk more
about these things, but Mum was a catalyst, she made stuff
happen and it was always about helping other people.
This general attitude is reflected in the letters we received. The word kindness comes up pretty much in every letter. But it wasn’t just kindness. Mum also had a real joie de vivre and as far as I’m concerned, a delicious attitude towards raising children (which is just as well).
Mum liked to let things flow, didn’t make a fuss about a scraped knee. Honourable Scars she called them. The question she asked herself was ‘is it going to kill or maim? If not, screw it, let it happen’. I love her so much for that and I’m more grateful than words can say, it’s shaped my life.
Of course you won’t find her now-famous method of ‘teaching a child to swim’ in any coaching manual ... the idea of just throwing them in at the deep end seemed so … passively benign to Mum. Well, I won't go into details - and no-one drowned.
Then, of course there was the famous day of the Pompeii exhibition in the 70s when she took five young children to London and came back with three. My earliest memory of the London Underground is standing at the top of a massive long escalator trying to persuade my Mother not to slide down the central reservation to go and find them!
Life did throw some curve balls but everything she did had a sense of fun and joie de vivre about it. Mum dedicated several years of her life to looking after my Gran [Mary Morgan-Owen]; I wonder how many other 100 year olds go on holiday in an old motor-home? Racing over level crossings as the barriers came down - during mealtime.
As a pensioner, in winters, when
it was icy and dangerous on the roads, Mum used to go to
deserted car parks, whizzing around doing handbrake turns and
even donuts. Which various elderly
passengers apparently found very exciting. My life has
been so much better with this constant infusion of positive
energy. She was made of the right stuff.
Throughout her life, Mum was always very active; she sprinted for Scottish Universities, she had trials for Wales at hockey and following in the footsteps of her grandfather, a founder of Bull Bay Golf Club, she was very useful on a golf course. In later years she was also Surrey’s oldest shepherdess. She was very good at it, too.
But in all of her activities and daily life, there was this sense of fun. But above all, love and kindness. And that’s Mum’s special gift to Mike and I.
We never had to think about it because it was always there, throughout our lives. And her injection of vitality and urgency, to live life to the full, to make the most of this amazing gift of life. Her favourite lesson to me, that I always hold dear, she got from one of the French philosophers, who said “Life is like sand falling between your fingers, you must hold on” “Attendez” (I guess he said it in French). That’s what she always used to say; “Attendez!”
I think life hasn’t always been easy for Mum, but the lessons she taught me and the love she unfailingly bestowed on Mike and I have been such a gift. I’m so proud of her.
Anyone who spoke with Mum recently will know that she very quickly came to terms with her fate, she was ready and prepared to ‘get to the party’ as she put it. While our world has just become a little duller and less jolly, but perhaps more on time, the hidden party around us will now be in full swing with her arrival. My own heartbreak is tempered by the thought that whilst Mum used to be with me only sometimes, now she’s with me all the time.
We will always love her and will always be so grateful to have had her as our Mother.
David Eaton explained that it had been Hedley's dearest wish to
be present to play this
but he had just tested positive for COVID. He might well be looking in.
Nothing daunted we were and are nevertheless
able to see and hear Hedley playing, thanks to technology.
Michael, David and
I have been delighted with the letters and cards with their
attention to the lovely, intelligent and generous aspects of
Alison's life, but this is not a life history. More a
peep into what she was up to that made so many of us amazed
and delighted by her presence, her warmth and her friendships.
The Alison we all knew and loved arrived in Leatherhead in 1968. My wife Marilyn was the first person to knock on the door and they hit it off immediately. Marilyn had become the editor of The Rock, the Roman Catholic Parish Magazine and Alison helped with the editorial and printing of it.
Very soon Alison became an enthusiastic member of the Cross Keys, a four-sided social club of United Reformed, Methodists, Anglicans and Catholics. Her active life kept her fit by cycling everywhere in the area.
However in her
early days as a mother, her life was blighted by epileptic
fits. These caused considerable trouble for quite a while and
prevented her from having a licence to drive cars. By
better medical care over the next few years, her fits were
gradually mastered by two sympathetic specialists at Epsom and
changes in the law. From there on, her driving life was
transformed and played a big part in many new activities.
As soon as she was free to drive, she said “I must do this the proper way” and she went to the Institute of Advanced Motorists in Guildford for proper tuition. This was perfect for her. No sooner had she passed their Advisor Test than she was invited to train as an Instructor in Guildford and was constantly on hand for many years.
Two years ago she was offered the Vice Presidency but that would have denied her the chance to help others as a trainer, so she didn’t accept it.
For many years she ran a camping van in which her mother enjoyed trips. She also ran a Daihatsu Terrier - very useful for later assisting Amanda [with the sheep].
Purchasing a minibus was an important step towards helping others. Many trips were to take British Legion members out for enjoyable trips. She was still subject to epileptic fits but she recruited drivers and assisted drivers to be trained and let them take groups. One such was for the transport for other guests to go to the wedding of my son and daughter-in-law in Waterloo in Belgium - they are here today with their children.
loaned it to groups of trainees for the priesthood to visit
the battlefields of Northern France and Belgium and never
charged to make a profit.
luncheon trips for those in the area to go to pubs and other
places in Surrey and Sussex and from her early days in Bookham
she assisted groups of former servicemen in the British
Legion. Years later she took over the Poppy Day collections in
Bookham and Fetcham.
Her skill with motoring made her a natural to help with the Leatherhead & Fetcham Voluntary Car Service of lifts to each of our local hospitals. She negotiated with the company holding the parking fee collection franchise. She did many trips for those in need and spent much time allocating lifts for others on a rota of four.
These are just some of her public life aspects. A big one was on the horizon, Hackney.
In the mid 1980s,
our then Vicar, the Rev Sandy Morris, received a letter from
the Rev Gualter de Mello explaining
the needs of Hackney and asking for his help with the poor and
the immigrants in that Borough which Gualter was working on at
Prideaux House. Friends of Alison, including Shuja
Shaik, former mayor of Hackney were hoping to be here today
but have been prevented by the effects of COVID.
Much ‘stuff’ was
easily found in Leatherhead and taken to support the charity,
which had a shop for second hand goods in Hackney.
Horace almost immediately bought a small van to simplify this
new connection with Hackney. Needless to say, Alison was
in her element and became a regular friend to the charity run
by Gualter. Many friends were made and were kept with the work
of the charity for many years.
Suffice to say that
the friendships led to a delighted Alison visiting Montserrat
in the West Indies with some of the survivors from the loss of
their island, from Hackney 10 years after the volcanic
What escapes from duty did she have?
What I also know
about is the personal kindness she showed to others she found
in need. Their positions are private but it has made me very
proud to be able to see what she did or planned to do.
She frequently helped people financially whenever she saw a
need. No wonder so many people have written to speak of
She was so pleasant to meet, with such a beautiful smile.
As Alison began to
use the expression about catching a train to join the Lord,
she often remembered how when Horace died, Chris Stagg had
said “yes, and he sent a Pullman.”
We can enjoy it now
and thank the Lord for a life which made other lives happier
and more enjoyable.
This is a letter written by her son Michael to Alison in early August this year and is read by Michael's wife Linda.
Thank you for giving me the time and the opportunity to
write this letter to you, something Linda bitterly
regrets not having the chance to do with her Dad.
Thank you for not ringing me in the car the other day.
You were so wise to trust Linda to pass on your news,
Thank you for all you have done for me, from bringing
me into the world, to giving me the space to make my own
way in it.
Thank you for the music, the songs I'm singing.
Thank you for making me independent.
Thank you for asking me to make a speech at your 70th birthday party. Sorry I took the Mickey so much (with hindsight there was no need to mention Jimmy Saville, although I was proud of the marriage counsellor/divorce gag).
Thank you for not losing me at Oxford Circus that day. Sorry for reminding Leatherhead of those less fortunate who were "misplaced" at your party 35 years later.
Thank you for cherishing all of my children, whether they call you Granny or Aunty Alison.
Thank you for seeing how much I love Linda, and the
life we have made together in beautiful North
Thank you for not opening that letter from Durham
Thank you for the time we spent together recently,
firstly in the Cotswolds and then at David's
Houseboat/Treehouse rehearsal in Richmond.
Thank you for not asking me to read this at your
In heavenly love abiding,
Wherever He may guide me,
Green pastures are before me,
We have heard fine tributes to Alison. Together they paint a picture of just what a good person Alison was, good in the sense that her own interest often came last because other people came first.
Today’s reading from Matthew – The Beatitudes – reflects the qualities that Alison displayed: of a gentle spirit, merciful, wanting to see right prevail.
There was nobody who served their church and community better than Alison. She was a pivotal figure in church life latterly publishing The Bulletin and always being at the centre of church organisation – especially with The Friends and from the time when Horace was chair, she forged the Hackney Link, made sure magazine advertising came in and a myriad of other roles.
Without people like Alison church life just would not function and the clergy would often be found going down for third time.
Even though she had a prominent role Alison was also tentative and unassuming, not always sure of her ground when she needn’t have been, always good-hearted and well-intentioned. A good friend, she was likeable and good company. You were pleased to have contact and the chance to natter together.
Although ... there were always things about Alison to be discovered. I didn’t know she was a member of The Advanced Driving Institute and acted too as an instructor. It reveals her modesty but also her practical know-how – she could see the need for better driving and had the right hands-on skills to do something about it.
Today we give thanks for Alison, for
all that she gave generously and gladly and for all that she meant
to those who knew and loved her.
When someone we have known well dies there is a sense of the unbelievable about it. It is hard to accept, just as it is hard to accept that one day we shall die. Even though, at my time of life, you are just thankful to wake up each morning, know you have made it through the night and find things are pretty much as you left them when you went to bed.
So that accepting death and dying are part of life is a tough call. That’s why we often don’t. People don’t die now – they pass, somehow it seems to soften the blow and no harm in that.
The road is made steeper because we have no shared narrative in the way we once did. It’s living in a secular culture, probably the most secular in Europe. The Christian tradition has been largely lost from view; seeped into the ground. As a culture we flounder - a ship with out a rudder, no direction home.
This does not mean we need arrogant assertion of faith and creed. Instead when death comes by what we need is something to hold to, someone to hold to. For Alison that was her faith in Christ and her hope of heaven. In her way she looked forward to what she described as the party to come and was rather pleased to think she might get there before the rest of us.
There is in a dead person a sacred stillness. In his novel Love over Scotland Alexander McCall Smith gives that moment its own kind of beauty. One of the characters in the novel is Angus Lordie, a portrait painter. He has the unfortunate experience of having one of his clients die in front of him whilst sitting for Angus to paint his portrait. Angus writes to a friend to tell her what has happened. He puts it like this:
It was very peaceful, almost as if somebody had silently gone away, somewhere else, had left the room. How strange is the human body in death – so still. That vitality, that spark, which makes for life, is simply not there. The tiny movements of the muscles, the sense of there being somebody keeping the whole physical entity orchestrated in space – that goes so utterly and completely. It is no longer there.
So that what we ask is where are
they, those we have loved but see no longer?
“It’s as if somebody had silently gone away, somewhere else, left the room”.
What death does for us is to open up another dimension. One we do not now see but one that is real and true none the less. It’s here we may find a new home and a place to be.
In this life Alison was on a pilgrimage inspired by her faith; she now begins another journey this time to a home in heaven. It makes for a completeness and fulfilment.
We may confidently link arms and
walk on together trusting in the one who gave us life. He will
renew that life in another world and in another place.
Alison leaves a rich legacy – of public and Christian service, of faith in Christ, of a life lived in hope and expectation of a life to come.
For God’s part, he may ask for our accountability but he does not dispense cold-hearted judgement as was once thought. Instead there is a welcome and recognition of his making and our longing.
I have never been much convinced by choirs of heavenly angels or blinding light to greet us. For me heaven is more homely, a place of love and affection we shall recognise as our own: "Ah come in, have a seat, good to see you, there’s a party about to begin, can I get you something?"
A home coming we shall know and make our own. A place to be ... a rest to receive ... a love to share.
Home at last.
The Church Flowers Team had been in early
Father we thank you that you made each one of us in your own
image and likeness, giving us gifts and talents with which to
serve you. We thank you for Alison, the years we shared with her,
the good we saw in her and the love and affection we received from
her. Give us strength and courage to leave her in your care,
confident in your promise of eternal life, through Jesus Christ
our Lord. Amen.
Most merciful Father, whose wisdom is beyond our understanding, surround Alison's family with your love. May they not be overwhelmed with their loss. May they have confidence in your goodness, and strength to meet the days to come. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Grant us, good Lord, the wisdom and the faith to use the life and the time that is left to us here on Earth. Lead us to repent of our sins, the evil we have done and the good we have not done. Strengthen us to follow in the footsteps of Christ your Son, and the way that leads to the fullness of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
And in silence, hold Alison in our hearts and to remember where her life touched yours.
And if it's your practice, please join with me and saying the Lord's Prayer on the Order of Service.
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For the kingdom, the power,
and the glory are yours, now and forever.
Alleluia! Sing to Jesus!
Alleluia! Not as orphans
Alleluia! Heavenly High Priest,
Alleluia! King eternal,
Almighty God, in your great love you crafted us by your hand and
breathed life into us by your spirit. By your mighty power you
raised Jesus from the grave and exalted him to the throne of
glory. Rejoicing in his victory and trusting in his promise to
make alive all who turn to Christ, we commend Alison to your mercy
and we join with all your faithful people and the whole company of
heaven in the one unending song of praise: glory and wisdom and
honour be to our God for ever and ever. Amen.
May the road rise up to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your land,
May the rain fall soft upon your face
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand.
Treorchy Male Voice Choir
DONATIONS IN MEMORY OF ALISON Alison shared
Horace's pride in his grandchildren and in particular Paul
Wright's association with Teignmouth Life Boat as a member of
the crew. She asked that instead of flowers donations be made to
National Lifeboat Institution
If you can add more memories of Alison please contact Frank Haslam, the editor of these pages.
Di Gale: This was taken at a
Martha's Market on one of our Celebration Days - 8th May
2015, the 70th Anniversary of VE Day. Not a perfect
portrait, but it shows her having fun with a friend,
Jennifer, also sadly deceased ... but hopefully they're
having fun together elsewhere ...
|Frank Haslam: After Margaret Jones, the
gallant editor of the Leatherhead Parish Magazine
retired for the third and final time in December 2018,
Alison and I had conversations about our concern that
part of what kept the parish informed and together was
being lost at a critical time. The assembling,
production, delivery and management of advertising and
subscriptions for the printed parish magazine was a
considerable task. But if nothing was done, did we
really want to see end of well over a century of this
service to the community?
Several weeks later she thanked me for reminding her of the ideas we had come up with. Hectic days were spent putting together the first issue of the free, paid advertising free, email-delivered Leatherhead Parish Bulletin in March 2019. Alison did her well known persuading of sources to come up with content. She also scoured the internet and her Inbox for local news items and things that made her laugh. I did the sub-editing, layout and the techie stuff.
The number of those requesting the Bulletin quickly grew among church and town, the latter now almost as numerous as the former. She was very kind in her thanks that I had sufficiently got the hang of things to take on her editorial role as her health began to give way.
I never got round to asking her if her car's number plate was concidence or chosen to commemorate Alison [and] Horace Wright ...
We'd known each other for 42 years. She had moved from Nor-Ven in Bookham to just round the corner in Box Cottage. I'll miss the banter and her dry wit.
Thank you Alison for being you.
Chris and Alison at Alison's 70th Birthday Party in the Parish Hall November 2012
Joan Leach: I think this was on a trip to Toc H's Talbot House, Poperinge, Belgium, with Rev Gualter de Mello.
Alison - Rev Gualter de Mello
Alison's photo of part of a grass bank filled with poppies near The Menin Gate, Ypres: please click image
Mike & Molly Lewis: In the tributes to Alison Wright many have commented on her considerable talents.
To date however, no mention has been made of her photographic skills.
Thirty years ago our eldest son's wedding ceremony took place at St Mary and St Nicholas - Leatherhead Parish Church.
Alison kindly volunteered to take photographs both at the Church and at the following Reception.
The result is a superb collection of photographs of the happy occasion.
Here is a photo of Alison fully equipped for the occasion.
I have happy memories of the many stimulating conversations we exchanged over the years, not least those that took place before and after the annual Six Nations Rugby encounters between England and Wales!
Stella Peake: I
was so sorry to read that Alison had died. She was
such a kind and happy person who did so much for Leatherhead and
she will be very much missed. I did greatly appreciate her
including me in the circulation of the bulletin, it is so good
to keep in touch although it is a long time since I came up to
Lincolnshire and many people I knew in Leatherhead are no longer
Alison and I go back a very long way, to the days when her son
David and my son Adam were at Downsend. She had so many
different interests: from driving the minibus to spinning, from
Hackney and Toc H to pancake tossing, from sheep to collie dogs
- and that is only scratching the surface.
She shared her
feelings, knowledge and love of the battlefields of WW1 with
Horace with whom she had over twenty very happy years.
When she knew I was going to Flanders she told me to look out
for the plaque of a young Welshman which was displayed in the
village where he died not knowing that he had won that year’s
Eistedfodd . She was so thrilled when I showed her a photo
of the plaque. Her love of her Welsh roots never left her.
We had many a good laugh together, but above all her faith shone through everything she did, which sometimes put mine to shame. Her last few years with Chris made her so happy but sadly she was not long in the ‘waiting room’ before she left us. There will be a very large hole in many people’s lives and she will be very much missed.
Alison was a very good friend to me and to very many people in
our Parish. When I first moved to Leatherhead in 1983 I
knew no one, but Alison soon approached me in her lovely
friendly way and asked if I would like to join The Friends of
the Parish Church. I joined there and then, and of course she
did me an immense favour! Very soon I joined the Friends'
committee and made new friends and began to "fit in" with life
in the Parish Church. I was Secretary for four years,
working with the late Ron Presley who was our excellent
Chairman. It was an extremely happy time in my life - all
because of our dear, wonderful, hard-working Alison.
We will all miss her very much.
Ven Arthur Siddall:
When our family arrived in Leatherhead in 1990 we had only met
our son’s House Master at St John’s School, but within weeks we
were made to feel ‘at home’. Part of that welcome was provided
by Horace and Alison Wright. As fellow-northerners Horace and I
became good friends and visits to their home became so
pleasurable. Horace was able to share his delight in meeting
Alison and the security they had been able to create.
When Horace died it
seemed to release an enormous energy in Alison, as though she
wanted to honour his memory. What she has accomplished in those
years since is remarkable and for all of that we give God our
Yvonne Warren: A very old memory of Alison. I first met her at Tyrrells Wood Golf Club. She used to cycle to the club with her clubs on her back in the early seventies! She was Alison Gordon then. She had learned to play golf from an uncle who I think was a golf professional. She was a very good player. It was so sad she had to give up but I did see her on the course one more time a few years ago playing as a guest and accompanied by her dog! Since then I only met her through church.
page created 4 Nov 21: last updated 21 Nov 2021