The Gazette - February 2015
Edited by Julie Leonard
The views expressed in the Gazette do not necessarily reflect the policies or views of the BCA, nor those of the editor.
Obituary for Mary Cuthbert
With great sorrow, we pay tribute to Mary Cuthbert, a much loved associate member who passed away at the end of October. Cherished wife of Jim and dear friend to many of us in the BCA as well as in her local community, her vivacity and sense of fun will be widely missed.
On hearing news of Jim's bereavement, very many people expressed their condolences together with their own personal sense of loss. Therefore, it seems appropriate that this obituary for Mary contains the thoughts and recollections of several people.
We begin with a eulogy, written for Mary by Peter Eastwood, and read by him at Mary's funeral on the 20th of November. As you will discover, Peter is a longstanding friend of Mary and Jim, who has generously given permission for his celebration of Mary's life and her achievements in the parish where she lived to be reproduced here in our gazette. This is followed by some words from a few BCA members. Not surprisingly, the messages from members were too numerous for them all be included here, but hopefully this small sample accurately represents the thoughts expressed by so many and reflects the wide range of contributions Mary made to our association over more than twenty years.
I first met Mary over fifty years ago when my family moved to Eltham. We used to meet at Mass every week as there was very little social activity at that time. It wasn’t long before things started to happen when the Drama Group, “The Priory Players”, was formed in 1965, with Mary being one of the founder members. Mary was an outgoing girl who became an active member of the Company. As we had no hall for the first few productions we performed at St Thomas More School in a farce called “The Happiest Days of Your Life”. Mary was the outspoken headmistress of a girls’ school who, due to an administrative error was evacuated to a boys’ school. Her demands left the Headmaster almost a nervous wreck.
Then in 1970 the Parish Hall was built and we moved into our new home where we performed a variety of shows spanning the next forty years. Mary became a multi-talented actress, playing a variety of roles ranging from a Fairy in our first pantomime “Pantomania”, Madam Arcati in Blithe Spirit and another pantomime role as the witch, Origana, who according to her theme song, was the girl with the ripe banana! I leave you to ponder on that. Mary also turned her hand to direction and when someone else tried to tell her what she should do Mary said “There is only one Director!”; a phrase which the players still use today.
Mary was very much involved in the life of the parish and we were to be found most weekends here at the Monty Club in the Hall. Mary sang in the church choir for many years and she was always helping out at the annual fêtes and bazaars.
Then, in 1979, someone else entered her life when Jim appeared on the scene. Jim was introduced to Mary by Fr Joseph Levins. Mary took Jim under her wing and soon they became inseparable. They both shared the same birthday, the 19th of June, and that day became very special because they married here in Christchurch on that same date in 1982.
And so life continued, the Priory Players productions, the choir, the Monty Club and fun days out. At the Christmas bazaar Mary would always run the raffle whilst Jim would be at the door taking the entrance fee. And who could forget the Christmas Carol Singsong in the Monty Club, where every year Mary would belt out the twelve days of Christmas to huge applause and at least one encore.
On a personal note, for many years Mary and Jim would come to lunch on Boxing Day, arriving with a huge turkey and loads of parcels, and joining in with our children, contributing to the chaos and in recent years doing the same with our grandchildren. Great fun and laughter was had by all.
Sadly, over the last few years, Mary did not enjoy the best of health but being the trouper she was she did not let it get her down. She continued to help out at the Priory Players and at the church fêtes whenever she could and it was always with a glad heart and a big smile.
Mary passed away on 29th October after a short illness which she bore with great fortitude.
Mary, we will miss you, but you will not be forgotten. May you rest in peace.
Peter and Celia Gibbs:
Mary was a lovely, warm lady and we enjoyed her company at BCA events. She was the life and soul of the party at the annual Chess Theme Breaks which we organise and at our soirées she gave wonderful recitations. We shall miss her greatly. We shall not see her like again.
Together with being a regular contributor at the BCA soirées, where her renditions of Hilaire Belloc’s 'Matilda' and Lewis Carroll’s 'You are old, Father William' brought the house down every time, Mary enjoyed the social side of BCA events, and albeit she rarely consumed alcohol, she was always amongst the last of us to leave the bar each evening.
Mary and Jim joined the BCA in 1993 so that Jim could pursue his interest in chess. However, they quickly discovered that BCA events are not just about the chess. They met many new friends and evening entertainment programmes began to benefit from Mary's theatrical talents. On the administrative side, Mary helped the late Sean O'Brien in the search for suitable tournament venues.
Together with Jim, Mary regularly attended the ever popular Chess Theme Week at the Windermere Manor Hotel, where she was coached by Norman Andrews. Norman's invaluable help, for which Mary was most grateful, inspired her to take part in a simultaneous display. However, as at BCA chess events, Mary will be better remembered for her hilarious poetry recitals and her delightful singing.
Mary’s ashes are to be laid to rest in the Garden of Remembrance at St. Thomas More Church, Eltham at 2pm on Saturday, 17th January.
Mary, you will be sadly missed by all your many friends in the BCA.