02 November 2006

MARJORIE HANDLEY, who has died, aged 96, was born in Bradford, and grew up in the Lidgett Green area, the only child of Robert and Hetty Fox. There must have been early signs of her abilities, because she was released one day a week from her secondary school to be a pupil-teacher at Wapping School, for which she was paid £1 a day.
Edge Hill Training College, Liverpool, prepared her for the teaching profession, which was to be her life’s work. Her first post was at Wyke School, Bradford. At that time, while setting up a camp for the Guides of St Barnabas’s Church, the curate on the new estate, Alec Handley, assisted Marjorie. So they met and married at Seathwaite in 1937, receiving among their wedding presents a hive of bees.

Alec Handley became Vicar of Bridekirk, Cumberland, in 1939, and his wife taught in local schools. Wartime restrictions, work in rural parishes, together with Alec’s experiences in the Royal Army Medical Corps in the 1914-1918 War, and his years in Saskatchewan, Canada, in the 1920s, were a good preparation for the next phase of their lives.

In 1945, Alec and Marjorie applied for the posts of Chaplain and Schoolteacher on Tristan da Cunha. On appointment, both Alec and Marjorie were busy with teaching the school children, and in the evening the adults. Apart from his church duties, Alec had practical skills (he was known as “Handy Handley”), filled teeth, and acted as vet.

They made a great contribution to the life of the island, but Alec suffered a fatal heart attack in 1948, and was buried on Tristan. After a brief spell in England, Marjorie returned there to teach in 1949. On her final return to England in 1952, she brought with her Valerie Glass, a very young island girl, to whom she had become guardian.

A teaching post in Kendal was followed by headships in Littleton, Middlesex, and Friern Barnet, North London. The latter, at St John’s C of E School, gave the opportunity to be involved with the planning of a new building. Former members of staff and parents of children educated at St John’s have paid tribute to her work there, and her “profound influence on staff and pupils alike”.

After retiring in 1972, Marjorie moved to Wells, Somerset, in 1976. Besides enjoying Cathedral activities and the life of the parish of St Thomas, she was also busy for ten years remaking cards with Mrs Kathleen Peach to be sold on behalf of the Children’s Society.

In May 1986, Marjorie became one of the first residents at Capel Court, Prestbury, Cheltenham, a Pensions Board home. She spent 18 happy years there, and built up an extensive social life, including Scrabble, card games, car trips, and foreign holidays. Her patio garden was a special interest.

Registered blind latterly, and becoming deaf, in early 2004 she felt the need to move to the  Manormead nursing home at Hindhead, Surrey.

Although her body became frail, her mind was as alert as it had always been, and the memories of her life were still clear. Her family and friends mourn her death, and they give thanks for her long life, the faith that sustained her, and her influence on so many lives

Subscribe now to get full access

To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read up to twelve articles for free. (You will need to register.)