Close family only were able to say goodbye today to Margaret Hellier who lived with her husband Russell for many years at Willowmead in Easton. The processional music was Charles Aznavour singing ‘Old Fashioned Way’ and the recessional was ‘Edelweiss’ from the Sound of Music. We hummed or lip-synched to All things Bright and Beautiful, The Lord’s My Shepherd (the Vicar of Dibley version) and Praise my soul the King of Heaven. Eleanor read the poem ‘She is gone’, Tim read Daffodils by William Wordsworth and Sharon (standing in for Alice) read ‘Remember’.
Jo wrote the following tribute which was read by Alan:
Margaret Christine Hayton was born at home on January 28th 1935 in Cark-in-Cartmel in the Lake District. It was a source of great amusement to Margaret that the doctor who delivered her told her father that she was the ugliest baby he’d ever seen. Northern tact at its finest!
I think Margaret felt she had the last laugh by growing up to be quite a looker.
Margaret had what must have been a fairly idyllic childhood, growing up in The Lakes with her parents Christopher and Eleanor and younger brother Geoff. Margaret could trace her family back 400 years in the Lake District, so there was a lot of family nearby as well.
Even the start of the Second World War had only a limited impact on their day to day life. Margaret’s father, Chris Hayton, had his own agricultural machinery business in Kendal, so he remained at home during the war as an important support to the farmers. Petrol rationing meant travel was limited, so Margaret used to enjoy accompanying her father to the neighbouring farms on business, when not at school.
She also used to tell us how she would go shooting rabbits with her father but, because the gunshot wasn’t very good in the war, Margaret would have to finish off the rabbits by clubbing them on the head. A bunny-lover she clearly was not!
At 18, Margaret went to Manchester College to study domestic science. She used to remark that her other choice of college was in Bath and, had she chosen that, she would have been a class-mate of Mary Berry!
Margaret qualified as a domestic science teacher and enjoyed regular weekends home. She was particularly close to her father and they would go sailing together on his yacht on Lake Windermere, along with her brother Geoff. Margaret used to tell her family that she also water skied behind her father’s speedboat. This must have been a sight to behold, as Margaret was not known for her sporting prowess!
It was during one of her regular weekend visits home to The Lakes that she met Russell. He was an Area Sales Manager for International Harvester agricultural machinery in the North West and met Margaret at an agricultural show, where she was helping her father on a stand.
Margaret and Russell were married on August 5th 1959 at Ulverston Church and began married life in Chester.
Due to Russell’s job, there followed many moves around the country. Sue was born in 1961 in Malvern and Jo in 1964 in Kent. Margaret had stopped teaching before Sue was born and her life now revolved around her two daughters, Russell and running the family home.
In 1975, again due to Russell’s job, the family moved to Willowmead, Easton and that is where Margaret and Russell remained for 36 years.
Margaret and Russell were quickly absorbed into Easton life. Margaret was on the rota for the Church flowers for nearly all of the time they lived there. She sold tickets for the annual Pantomime and ran the plant stall at the village fete for many years.
However, Margaret’s absolute passion was creating a beautiful garden at Willowmead. She wasn’t a formal gardener, she loved playing around with plants and seeing what worked. Also getting inspiration from her favourite gardens at Sissinghurst and Mottisfont.
Margaret loved living next door to Easton Church. She particularly enjoyed using her bird-watching binoculars to follow the local weddings, funerals and christenings from her bedroom window! Perhaps she’s watching now?
Margaret made many good friends while in Easton, too many to mention here, but of particular note have to be Bunny Symes and Sheila Elsmie.
Margaret and Russell bought Willowmead from Bunny, not realising he came as part of the package. Bunny would call in every day, often twice a day, to check that he approved of any alterations that were going on and to voice his opinion when he frequently did not approve. He would tell Margaret what she should be doing in the garden and she would tell him what to do with his suggestions. They loved to tell each other what they were doing wrong, ignore each other’s advice and have a regular catch up on village gossip. True friends, in other words!
A particular highlight was when Bunny brought his rescue donkey, Bepo, into the kitchen for Margaret to admire. She didn’t.
Sheila was also Margaret’s close friend. They would meet regularly for tea and lunch parties and exchange the gossip provided by Bunny and many others. They used to volunteer together with the National Trust at Uppark and went on many coach trips to various gardens around the south of England, with a larger group of friends.
Margaret was a very talented amateur artist and her walls at home are covered with her paintings, mainly of flowers, birds and country scenes. Margaret would sometimes sell her paintings at local exhibitions, the Poppy paintings always being the most popular. Margaret absolutely loved colour, particularly red and purple. She hated black or neutral colours, that wasn’t her style at all. Margaret loved her purple kitchen in Kent, which must have been fairly unusual, even in the 1970s!
There followed in Willowmead floor length red velvet curtains, orange and shocking pink checked wallpaper in another room and so on.
In 1982 Russell’s job took them to Paris for a year and Willowmead was let. The first thing the letting agency stipulated was that the bright colours had to go and Magnolia took their place.
Margaret and Russell enjoyed life in Paris, where Jo lived with them too & that was followed by a year in Scunthorpe, which must have been a bit of a contrast!
In 1984 Margaret and Russell returned to Willowmead, where they remained until 2011. Meanwhile, two months before their return, Sue had married Tim in Easton Church in May 1984. In August 1985 Margaret and Russell’s first grandchild Jamie was born, followed by Eleanor in 1987 and Alice in 1989. All three grandchildren were christened in Easton Church.
In August 1995 Jo and Alan were married in this beautiful Church and there followed another two grandchildren, Freddie in 2002 and Grace in 2005. Margaret was a lovely Granny and used to particularly enjoy teaching her grandchildren to paint. She could also be quite a naughty Granny, delighting in allowing her grandchildren to do things their mothers wouldn’t allow. Was it eight spoonfuls of sugar on a bowl of cereal??
Margaret loved birds and kept doves, before the move to Paris. She also had an aviary of budgies on the back terrace. Sue’s children remember being allowed to go with Granny to choose a budgie of their own, which they were allowed to name. They were called Daffodil, Snowdrop and Bluey.
In 2011 Margaret and Russell moved to Chilbolton when the garden at Willowmead and adjoining field became too much for them. By then Margaret’s oldest grandchild Jamie had moved to America and married Amanda. Margaret was delighted to become a great-grandmother when Maggie came along and always insisted that Maggie was named after her! There followed Sophie and Ben and last year Eleanor and Sharon had baby Flossie. Sue’s children had always called Margaret Big Granny, because she was so much taller than their other Granny. It was a source of much hilarity in the family that Margaret could now be called Great Big Granny!
Granny and Grandad’s home in Chilbolton was also very handy for Jo to drop off Grace and sometimes Freddie at “Granny Club” on Saturdays and in the school holidays, while Jo went to work. Granny loved to display their artwork around her bedroom and their creative sides continue to be an important part of their lives.
Margaret was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2010, so knew what was to come, but not when. She was very matter of fact about life and death and asked her haematology consultant to enable her to live long enough to see her two youngest grandchildren grow up. Margaret’s family are very grateful to him that he succeeded in this, as well as seeing her four great-grandchildren come along.
Margaret’s family all have their own favourite memories of her and what a special lady she was. Home and family meant everything to Margaret. She is much loved by us all and will be sorely missed. However, she lives on through her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and that will continue to bring us all lasting happiness.
The Bible Reading was from Ecclesiastes 3:
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 A time to be born and a time to die,
A time to plant and a time to uproot,
4 A time to weep and a time to laugh,
A time to mourn and a time to dance,
8 A time to love and a time to hate,
A time for war and a time for peace.
Revd Alex Pease gave the following address:
We have just read in Ecclesiastes that there is a time for everything: a time to be born and a time to die.
We all have to die. We are all, as one writer put it, surfing precariously on a line between one date and another: the day we are born and the day that we die.
I have been struck recently by how, as we lie on our death beds, we might reflect back on our lives…..If Margaret was able to do so she could certainly look back with great joy on a wonderful family and grandchildren that she had seen grow up – what a blessing that is when you are diagnosed with a terrible disease, quite a long time before.
But I wonder how Margaret, how any of us, would look forward from that death bed to what happens next….What did she, what would we…..expect?
The Christian understanding of what happens at death is that when we as Christians cross over that barrier, we won’t have a disembodied eternity: twanging a harp on a cloud.
Christians believe in a physical resurrection, like that of Jesus, on a new Earth ruled by Jesus, where we can eat and drink and enjoy many of the tangible joys experienced during lives in this world.
I can’t promise everything that we might enjoy now but surely there will be vibrant colour….gardens of great beauty in which I am sure poppies will feature, in which Margaret would be able to spend happy hours painting the beauty all around her and perhaps using her binos…(if there are such things there) to enjoy every detail…
What will it be like…?
Well I am confident that it will be just wonderful.
For what it will be like…..we have to step into our imaginations.
CS Lewis: in the final volume of the Narnia Stories called ‘the Final Battle’ imagines that new Earth as a place in which we feel that we have come home at last, as a place in which we can go… further up and further in, in a place which is just more real and more beautiful than the world as we have experienced it
Aslan the Lion, the Christ figure of the books, finally speaks to the children who are the heroes and heroines, as they reach this incredible place, this new heaven and earth: He says to them “…all of you are – as you used to call it in the Shadowlands – dead”
“The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ending: this is the morning.”
Lewis continues: ‘‘..for [the children] it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before’