A correspondent writes:
MARGARET LAIRD, who died on 11 May, aged 81, was, for ten years
from 1989, a highly regarded and effective Third Church Estates
Commissioner. Her responsibilities included chairing the committee
that dealt with the sensitive issue of schemes for pastoral
reorganisation. She also had oversight of bishops' houses and
redundant churches, as well as membership of various committees and
working groups, not least those dealing with clergy discipline and
the Pensions Board.
She brought to all these tasks sympathy and concern, and was
scrupulous in ensuring that parishioners' views were heard and
taken into consideration when pastoral schemes were discussed. She
took that quasi-judicial work particularly seriously, and there
were few, if any, who could feel aggrieved at the process of
consideration by her and her committee, even if the decision was
not as they would have wished.
Margaret Heather Laird (née Polmear) was born in Truro. She
remained immensely proud of her Cornish heritage and background,
maintaining a home there after the death of her parents. She was
educated at Truro High School, and read Medieval History at
Westfield College, London University. She found this sense of
history useful when dealing with historic churches and pastoral
She spent a postgraduate year at King's College, London, where
she met her future husband, John. They married in 1961. This was a
notably happy relationship. He and their two sons survive her. She
also came under the influence of Eric Abbott, who remained her
spiritual director for 30 years until his death. In her last years,
she conceived a collaborative project to gather some of his
unpublished writings and sermons for an anthology with a short
She taught at Grey Coat Hospital School, and at Newquay Grammar
School, before her marriage. She then taught at St Albans High
School, before John's appointment as Chaplain (later
Vice-Principal, acting Principal) at Bishop's College, Cheshunt.
During this happy period, their children were born, and she
"concentrated on motherhood".
The "most traumatic period of our lives" occurred in 1969, when
Cheshunt was culled along with other theological colleges. The
Lairds moved to Keysoe, in north Bedfordshire, where they remained
until John's retirement and appointment as Chaplain to the Marquis
of Salisbury at Hatfield House.
During this period, she was Head of Religious Education at Dame
Alice Harpur School, Bedford, for 20 years, and was a member of the
General Synod's House of Laity, before her appointment as Third
Church Estates Commissioner. As Commissioner, she served on the
Standing Committee of the Synod. She was appointed OBE in 1999.
She was a member of the councils of several societies, where her
advice and comments were greatly valued for their calm and reasoned
authority. The Anglican Association, the English Clergy
Association, the Society for the Maintenance of the Faith, Lambeth
Palace Library, Cleaver Ordination Candidates' Fund, Allchurches
Trust Ltd, and Open Churches Trust all benefited from her
contribution. She was a long-serving Governor of Pusey House, and
was devoted to its liturgy and life. At a difficult time in the
life of the House, her support for the Chapter was solid and
encouraging. Successive Principals and Priest Librarians found her
a source of wisdom and practical advice. Her concern for clergy and
undergraduates was real and unostentatious, kind and interested.
She was also a member of the Royal Institution of Cornwall and a
Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
Mrs Laird was committed to the Catholic faith as the Church of
England had received it. She was devout in the practice of her
faith, and regretted the path that the Church of England had chosen
to take in recent years. From creational and incarnational
principles, she did not think that the change in ministerial order
was right; nor did she accept that the Anglican Church had the
authority to make such a decision alone. But she remained steadfast
in her beliefs and loyal to the Church.
She faced her terminal illness, and its treatment, with
fortitude for two years. During periods of remission, she resumed
her committee work, and wrote articles for New Directions.
A generosity of spirit and lively hope despite difficulties were
always apparent. She was one of those people whom it was always a
pleasure to meet and be with. She was the most gracious of