died 31st July 2010

This tribute was given at Marion’s funeral by Canon Thomas Christie and includes a short ringing history by Maurice Thurmott.

It was fortuitous that I happened to hear ‘Thought for the Day’ yesterday morning when Dom Anthony Sutch was extolling the virtues of his grandmother, the wife of a Church of England vicar. ‘This could have been Marion!’ I said to myself as I listened to the description of the parochial visiting and the selfless support offered to her husband. But there was more to Marion than simply being a clergyman’s wife – although that was certainly the main motivation and the way that so many have perceived her.

Marion was always proud of the Grain family to which she belonged. They lived at Belmont, a large house in Prickwillow Road, Ely, and it was there that Marion (along with her sister Janet) was born. Her father, Henry, was a good auctioneer, much trusted by the fen farmers. Her mother, Olive, had a sister married to a chemist at Brightlingsea and the family spent many happy summer holidays at that resort. It was there that her love of sailing was nurtured, with her father buying a succession of boats. (Later she sailed with the Peterborough Yacht Club in the ’80s). Her mother sadly died when Marion was 12, and her father later remarried.

Her schooling was interrupted by evacuation to Bradden near Towcester, and she left at Christmas 1943 to go to a Secretarial School, eventually taking a job as a clerk at A. T. Grain and Sons. In 1946 she answered the call at St Mary’s Church in Ely to learn to ring: the pre-war band no longer rang so the youth of Ely were invited to learn the ‘ancient art’. St Mary’s was fortunate in having a most experienced and capable ringer in Ron Bullen and he soon gathered around him an enthusiastic group of youngsters. Marion was one such and – as with everything she did – became extremely talented. This interest she followed with dedication throughout her life and for her last twelve years she became a treasured band member of St Mary’s Church, Peterborough.

In 1955 she married Fr Hugh Joseph and they moved to Tydd St Giles, his first parish as incumbent, before moving on to Elm and then coming to Peterborough, taking charge of St Augustine’s Woodston. Their two children (Timothy and Gillian) were born in 1964 and 1966 – and it was during our joint time in the Wisbech Deanery that I got to know and love the Joseph family.

Each one of us will have our special memories of Marion which perhaps we can share a little later on. One of mine is of a delightful shared holiday in Ireland, a few years before Hugh died, when Hugh delighted in the eccentricities of the Irish with their green pillar boxes and the ivy covered telegraph poles – and Marion encountered a sheep in a shop in Kenmare! Another (of Audrey’s) was earlier still when they had been shopping in Peterborough and ran out of petrol on their return to Wisbech, just past Thorney Toll, and had to run back for a can and then improvise with a paper funnel in order to be home in time to retrieve Gillian from nursery school. Marion always had a good sense of fun.

Her children remind me that she described herself as ‘a simple soul’ or ‘an old woman gathering sticks’ – and that certainly reflects her modest nature. But there was so much more to Marion than that. She was keenly interested in literature and films (we often went to the pictures together and swapped books continuously); she was a skilled campanologist (who appreciated the friendship – and the beers in the Con Club after practices!) and the totally reliable sacristan of this church for many years. She was unswervingly loyal in her support of All Saints and all the parishes where she had worshipped. She was an Associate of the Order of the Holy Paraclete, and her visits to the Community at Whitby were much valued. The affectionate description by her family as ‘Mother Superior’ or ‘the undercover nun’ was testimony to her deep faith.

She gave herself wholly to her family, putting her children and husband first – and in recent years went without a single indulgence for herself. When Hugh died in 1992, I remember saying at his funeral that ‘Marion’s matter-of-factness and commonsense combined well with Hugh’s otherworldliness and spiritual concern to form a lasting balance in a truly happy marriage’ – and that has ever been a keynote in her life. She could always be relied upon.

She was a most supportive mother and grandmother – and this year she delighted in becoming a great-grandmother. She meant a great deal to Gillian and Felicity, who lived nearest. Felicity will always remember her as ‘my best friend and role model, who never judged anyone’. She was ‘my rock’ who imparted her culinary skills in a true spirit of sharing. ‘I am so glad she was my Granny!’ is the heartfelt cry.

In the last decade as her health deteriorated, unknown not only to her family but moreover ignored and set aside by herself, Marion continued to smile and went about her day. In the last weeks and days as her illness accelerated she maintained her good humour and pushed aside any suggestion of her needing extra assistance. Her devoted neighbour and friend Glynis was her confidant for 28 years, across the fence and hedge in All Saints Road; in her last weeks she relied on Glynis more and more for the simple activities of facing each day – and her family are deeply grateful for this much unknown friendship and support.

She will be greatly missed by so many, especially her family – sister Janet, brother Frank, daughter Gillian, son Timothy and their children and grandchild. She is forever in our hearts.

Hugh’s funeral was on All Souls’ Day which reminds us of our common mortality, but today is the Feast of the Transfiguration when we look beyond ourselves to contemplate the face of Our Lord, shining in glory and pray that we too may be changed ‘from glory to glory’.


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Central Council of Church Bell Ringers