Tributes to Evelyn Paige read at her funeral service on 28 July, 2011
Tribute by Mrs Rosie Wood, Chairman of Weald Parish Council
I was not lucky enough to have known Evelyn for as long as many of you here today, nonetheless I have some wonderful memories of her and her unexpected death leaves Weald Village mourning the passing of a remarkable lady of indomitable spirit.
Earlier this year Evelyn decided she should step down after 50 years as Parish Councillor – in all that time she had only missed a handful of meetings. At each meeting she always spoke her mind, enjoyed heated debates but would stick to her guns on her decisions. She moved with the times and I loved to listen to her memories of Weald in bygone years.
One of Evelyn's great pleasures was her garden and subsequent involvement in the village allotments. On her retirement, Weald Parish Council presented Evelyn with a trophy to be awarded to an appropriate Allotment Holder of her choice. Sadly, the first annual presentation is due this coming weekend but we hope it will now become a valued feature that will keep Evelyn in our hearts for many years.
As a very new Parish Councillor, I admired and respected Evelyn, and was totally in awe on first acquaintance yet over the years and with recent promotion to Chairman on Ken Hocking's retirement, I found Evelyn’s' outward austerity a smokescreen for her true character. I valued her sound yet gentle advice as she welcomed me in to my new role, usually over tea with pretty bone-china cups & saucers and delicious home baked cakes. I was not the only one who appreciated Evelyn's hospitality as there was always a succession of friends popping in for a cuppa too!
She was a complete individual who cared passionately for the village into which she was born and spent her entire life – I feel most privileged to have had her as a friend and will, with the rest of us here today, miss her enormously, as our thoughts go out to her family, as they cope with their sad loss.
Tribute by Mr Kenneth Hocking, previous Chairman of Weald Parish Council
During my first years in the village our paths seldom crossed. The occasional “good morning” at the bus stop or in one of the village shops was our only contact. My impressions of her were of a self – assured polite lady and rather conventional. Views that would be modify somewhat over the years.
First Days on Parish Council
Later when I later joined the Parish Council, I learned a great deal more about her and was to appreciate her many good qualities. As a new boy I was, like Rosie, rather in awe of Evelyn. However as we got better acquainted I came to admire her tenacity, logical thinking and above all her passion for the Village in which she spent her life.
Colleague and friend – first anecdote
As time went by we served together on several committees and I valued her as a stalwart colleague and formidable ally. Her command of language was perfect and she had, when needed, a look and a turn of phrase which could stop a tank. She very seldom deployed this weapon but I recall one tedious meeting with our arch enemies the District Council planners when Evelyn had had enough of the prevarication she launched her secret weapon, stopping the speaker dead in mid flow and he was unable to find the right response and carry on.
When I took over as Chairman Evelyn became one of my most valued colleagues. Always ready with a sensible response, never hesitating to challenge if she had idea different from the majority. Her infinite knowledge of Village “goings on” and happenings from the past were invaluable; she became my “data base” and enabled us to make better decisions. We did not always agree but she always stuck to her guns and had no problem when she was the only “no” vote. Her command of language was exceptional and she could always come up with a silken phrase when the rest of us were struggling.
Other activities Gardens- pheasants
Her garden was one of Evelyn’s passions; even in later years when she was less able to manage it she was still often seen there working away. This devotion extended to protecting her crops from predators. I recall being quizzed by her about the dates of the game shooting season, without any explanation as to why she wanted to know. A few days later she asked me to do her a favour; when I presented myself, she gave me a black bag and asked me to dispose of the contents. When I got home and opened the bag it contained the carcases of two game birds which had been attacking her crops. They had obviously not died of natural causes and official season had not yet started! They were swiftly plucked and consigned to the freezer. At our next meeting she looked at me as if to say, “What would you have done?”
Allotment – tree planting
Next to her garden the allotments were Evelyn’s great interest. She served on the Parish Council’s Recreation ground and allotments committee, the Allotment Holders Group committee as well as cultivating her own patch. A measure of her devotion occurred some years ago when a proposal was made to use a section of the allotments for tennis courts. Possible only because some plots were said not to be used. She was not happy. Action was needed and before we knew what was afoot an action group had been organised, fruit trees obtained and a party of stalwarts were out in the pouring rain planting trees on the empty plots. No ring leader was ever identified but everyone had their own ideas. This action may mean Evelyn was the first “Guerrilla Gardener”.
There are many other similar stories I could tell, and they all show what an extraordinary woman Evelyn was. We were very privileged to know her and will all mourn her passing. She will however have added another “Page” to the Weald book. We will all miss her.
Tribute by Mrs Ann Rushbrook a long-time friend.
Evelyn's family and my family have a friendship of over 100 years and in fact my Mother made her Mother's wedding cake. My earliest memory of Evelyn was when I was two years old, sitting on her lap having a photograph taken. We lived opposite Evelyn and her family until we moved to Bedford 16 years ago. We still continued our friendship and she was the big sister I never had. Evelyn spent time away learning to be the wonderful teacher that she was. However when she was teaching away we saw her during the holidays and when she worked nearer home we saw more of her as she lived at Kalabagh with her Mother and cared for her as well as teaching and I kept an eye on her Mother whilst Evelyn was working.
Evelyn was a wonderful friend both to my husband and I and our children who were a little in awe of her at times and they were terrified of her when the ball they were playing cricket or football with went over the hedge. However the stem words were forgotten when Christmas or birthdays came around and she gave them the sort of present that either helped them with school work or the latest mascara or lipstick especially the girls – you know the sort of presents Mum wouldn't buy. Evelyn had a wonderful heart and a sense of humour. Evelyn had many friends, both Staff and ex-pupils, from the schools she worked in and they would turn up, sometimes unexpectedly, on her doorstep and everyone loved going round her lovely and busy garden and were made welcome, although she was not fond of going to parties herself. The village postmen were always made welcome for a cup of tea and a warm by her Rayburn especially during the winter months.
We have rescued her on many occasions when she has lost her door key until in the end she gave me a spare one. One day she arrived at our back door with a dead stalk of a broad bean stuck in the back of her leg which Stan removed with her lying across the back door step as she didn't want to make my kitchen floor dirty! When she fell down the stairs and broke her ankle she managed to crawl back up them in order to reach the phone to ask for me to help her. Stubborn was not the word for her – if she could do the job no one else did it for her. We as a family also remember the magnificent bonfires she had which would burn for a fortnight at times, just gently smouldering and we would say "The Queen Elizabeth is coming up the channel." It was a joke between us.
Evelyn was immensely proud of her family – her brother Dick, who died a few years ago, and her three nieces – Jeanette, Nicola and Rowena. She would be quite happy to have the dog or rabbit when they were on holiday. She loved the great nephews and nieces too and when I rang her on a Sunday from Bedford – as I did each week and not between 2 and 2.45 as that was Gardener's Question Time on the radio – she always told me how they were and whether she had seen them.
Evelyn wore 'several hats' with pride – Parish Councillor for over 50 years, School Manager, a member of the Gardening Society and a great believer in keeping Remembrance Day. She was a much loved and respected member of Weald Village and as one lady said to me on hearing of her passing 'Evelyn was a walking reference book ' and I think that just about sums her up as she could always be relied upon to give you the right advice and could even give you the number of buses and where you caught them if you were visiting London for any reason. The village will be a sad place without her. One other memory I must share with you – as many of you may remember the boys from London used to visit the Oxford and Bermondsey Club at Halls Green.
For many of them this was the first visit to the countryside and they would get up to a bit of mischief at times, but if they saw Evelyn talking at her gate one or two of them would say to her 'Good afternoon Miss'. She would acknowledge them in her usual way and then turn to me and say 'I gave him the slipper on Friday at School'. They respected her and held no malice towards her.
Goodbye dear friend – another piece of Weald history has gone. I am proud and honoured to have known you for so many years and will miss you very much.
Tribute by Mrs Jan Mannering, a friend and neighbour.
Evelyn was brought into this world on a very cold October day in the early 1920s – so cold in fact that the midwife who delivered her slipped and broke her wrist on ice on the way back home. So her life began in the way that it would always continue – creating waves and ruffling feathers!
Evelyn wasn’t afraid of speaking her mind or expressing an unpopular view, a trait that was to be a huge asset to the village during Evelyn’s years serving on the Weald Parish Council. Last year Evelyn completed an astonishing 50 years of unbroken service as a Weald Parish Councillor – even more remarkable was the fact that when John Caird, the clerk of the Parish Council, went back over the records it was discovered that Evelyn had only missed a handful of meetings during those 50 years.
She cared passionately about the village and fought hard to preserve it in a way she believed was right – whether you agreed or disagreed with her point of view, you could always be sure that she only ever wanted the best for the village – her village and the residents in it. Her knowledge of the Weald was unsurpassed, and to the very end, her mind was razor sharp.
She never dwelled in the past but was incredibly forward thinking and kept herself up to date with current affairs by reading The Times newspaper from cover to cover every day and listening to the radio. She never owned a television, despite being offered several by various people. Like the Queen Mother she followed horseracing and on Grand National day could be found with an ear close to her wireless listening to the excitement of the final furlongs.
Although she kept her mind in the present, her memory of the past was extremely clear. She remembers Vita Sackville-West striding up and down Longbarn Road in ‘theatrical garb’ wearing large hats and dark clothes. Her father, she recalled, used to refer to her as, “That Mrs Nicholson”.
From quite humble beginnings – her father had been a professional soldier and then a postman – Evelyn was bright enough to go to Tonbridge Girls’ Grammar and then onto university – no mean feat at that time. From there she went on to become a teacher – a perfect occupation for a woman who could inspire, astonish and scare people in the same hour.
David Marchant tells a wonderful story of the Parish Councillors’ visit to the NatWest bank in Sevenoaks to finalise the legal side of signing Parish Council cheques. The poor young clerk asked her for some form of identification like a passport – “No passport!” Perhaps a diving licence? “I don’t drive,” barked Evelyn.
A television licence was suggested. “I don’t have a television!” Erm, erm.
Evelyn then produced her shotgun licence! The poor boy was terrified. She had her gun licence till the day she died – renewing it just last year much to our surprise and horror. But Evelyn could be very persuasive when she set out to be.
Evelyn, although quite modern in her thinking, was old-fashioned in her tastes. The shopping I did for her had to be British – “Buy me strawberries/ asparagus/peas but check that they are British,” she would say. Sometimes I knew she really fancied a certain fruit or veg. but British wasn’t available. I could be seen in Waitrose or Tesco’s peeling labels off. I don’t believe for one minute she was fooled, but it satisfied her social conscience.
“Carbon footprint” meant nothing to Evelyn. She had been practising that all her life. Her garden was her lifeline – everything to be eaten that year was either in her garden or, until she was forced to give it up, in her allotment. Last year she was quite upset as she hadn’t managed to get her sweet-peas in early enough. Until at least a month ago, I know for a fact, she was ordering seeds from her many gardening catalogues for next year’s planting. I suppose one could argue that here was an elderly lady who was slightly deluded – but I think this was Evelyn’s way of carrying on as she had always done, forging ahead, looking into the future, not allowing anything to stand in her way.
I believe that in the last two weeks she knew she was dying – she was no fool and although not a particularly religious woman she was a woman who had no regrets about the way she had lived her life. In the words of another great person, Winston Churchill, “I am ready to meet my Maker. Whether my Maker is prepared for the ordeal of meeting me is another matter”