Born Annie Mary Hobbs in Cardiff on 4th June 1929, to her parents Alfred and Emily, Mary, an only child, was just seven when her father died of tuberculosis in Chippenham, Wiltshire, to where her father’s employment with the Great Western Railway had caused the family to move.

Mary’s mother also worked for GWR as private secretary to the Bristol and West Regional manager based at Temple Meads station in Bristol. To supplement the family finances a room was rented out to Arthur Archibald Davis. Archie consequently became a great family friend. Mary would refer to him as Nunc and consequently he became her guardian, someone who provided appreciated guidance and support to her as she grew up. As a pupil of the very new Chippenham Grammar School, Mary excelled at spelling and developed an interest in Biology. With a close friend, also called Mary, she spent happy camping holidays collecting flowers in the mud at Brean. As the end to school days approached the family wanted Mary to go to work for Fry’s chocolate, as a designer but she was determined to be a horticulturalist.

In 1947 she entered London University’s Wye College in Kent for a four-year degree course in horticulture which she completed in 1951.This degree enabled Mary to secure immediate employment as assistant to the County horticultural adviser for Derbyshire. This position required her to be a car driver and she had a two-week intense course of driving tuition passing the test at the end of it. As part of her work in Derbyshire she frequently visited Chatsworth before it was open to the public meeting the Duchess on many occasions. After four years in Derbyshire, in 1955, Mary was appointed to the post of assistant County Horticultural Adviser for Buckinghamshire. Here, at Hampden Hall, she spent over 30 years of her paid working life, becoming much revered in the area.

It was while at college in Kent that Mary had learned to ring bells, only to discover later from her mother that both her father and uncle had been ringers. Whilst in Derby she was a member of St Peter’s tower, ringing four peals here and four more in other towers for the Derby Diocesan Association. On moving to Bucks and looking for a tower in which to ring she lighted on Wendover. Here she was introduced by fellow ringer Bill Faithfull to Tower Captain Waiter ‘Dick’ Lee and soon after their courtship began.

Both living in rented accommodation, they were determined to have a place of their own. To Quainton’s great benefit, having been unable to find a suitable property to meet their needs they decided to buy a plot of land and design and build their own. This they did, doing most of the construction themselves, at weekends, and in the lighter evenings, after finishing their day jobs.

Marrying at Bitton in Gloucestershire in 1962, Dick and Mary were able to move into their new home, speedily becoming stalwards of Quainton Church. They joined the local band of ringers and in 1984 they were the main motivators, fund raisers and labourers in the augmentation of the original five bells to a ring of 8, one of which was donated by Mary.

Being friends of the late Frederick Sharpe, Dick and Mary joined the renowned Launton handbell ringers. Both ringing four in hand and participating in many concerts for charity they can be seen on the Launton handbell website in their prime. Mary was a gifted pianist, with fantastic technical knowledge and the ability to transcribe the multi-part music necessary for handbell ringing.

Holidays in the early days were spent in Scotland and Ireland but in later years wings were spread to Austria and Germany, visiting Belgian windmills en route, enabling Mary to continue her photographic pursuits and to indulge another of her many skills as an accomplished water colour artist.

Mary was a staunch member of the Quainton band of ringers for many years until failing health prevented her from ringing. Her peal total was 13, eight being rung fur the DDA and five for the ODG. As a past secretary of the Central Bucks Branch of the Oxford Diocesan Guild, Mary was very proud of her election to the Presidency of the Branch.

Sadly on 28th May 2013 Mary was found unconscious by her next door neighbour. After spells in three hospitals she fought back but didn’t fully recover. She went into residential care at Avondale Care Home in Aylesbury and passed away peacefully there on 29th October 2014.

The Oxford Diocesan Guild Banner was in place at the Service of Thanksgiving and Celebration for the life of Mary which took place at Quainton on Wednesday, 19th November 2014 officiated by Revd Philip Mears. The organist was Geoffrey Heath and the eulogy was given by fellow ringer Arthur Evans. The Service was well attended by ringing friends and the Master of the Oxford Diocesan Guild was present, together with members of the congregation and the various clubs and societies to which Mary was a part. General open ringing took place before the service and a quarter peal was rung afterwards (p.1241). Peals were rung at Cosgrove (p.1238) and Quainton (p.1292) to her memory.

May she Rest in Peace.


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