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Obituary: Rachel Elizabeth Nugee

06 November 2015

Courage from an early age: Rachel Nugee

Courage from an early age: Rachel Nugee

Melanie Fletcher writes:

RACHEL Elizabeth Nugee, who died on 11 August, just before her 89th birthday, was born in north London. The daughter of John, a well-respected Jewish silk merchant, and Adelaide Makower, and the eldest of five children, she was brought up near Henley, where, at an early age, she showed the courage that was to be one of her hallmarks.

Shortly before the outbreak of the Second World War, she told her mother firmly not to worry: if the Germans came, she would get on her pony, and ride to Oxford to fetch help.

Rachel was educated at Roedean, served at Bletchley Park from 1944 to 1945, and then went up to Oxford to read English. She was immensely proud of her wartime service, which she kept a closely guarded secret for many years. Even when the Government gave the geese permission to cackle, she still found it difficult to break the silence she had preserved for so long. Nevertheless, when applications for the Bletchley badge opened, hers was one of the earliest, and her pride on receiving the badge from the then Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, was plain for all to see.

In 1955, Rachel married Edward (Ted) Nugee, then a junior Chancery barrister. Although later life brought them a degree of material comfort, their early years of marriage were austere: Rachel used to relate how, on winning a brief, they would celebrate by sharing a single Walnut Whip.

Rachel’s marriage brought her into the Christian faith, and some of her happiest times outside the circle of her family and close friends were spent either at Hampstead Parish Church in north London, which she attended for nearly 60 years, or working for the Mothers’ Union, where she rose to the position of London Diocesan President, serving from 1977 to 1982 as World Central President.

She was determined to serve all the members, and carried out a large number of visits to the Mothers’ Union overseas. On one visit to South Africa in the late 1970s, on being informed by the authorities that the black and coloured members of the Mothers’ Union could not join the white members in a large building where they were due to meet, she promptly reconvened the meeting in the car park.

Rachel’s faith also informed her many years as a magistrate, where she presided in the Family Division, dispensing justice, tempered by mercy, in some of the most deprived areas of London.

She retained a deep affinity with her Jewish origins, becoming a very typical Jewish matriarch to her family. Her four sons and their families were a source of deep joy and pride to her. Even in her final years, life becoming daily more difficult, as she battled increasing infirmity and dementia, she gathered new friends and found the strength to be a source of help and inspiration to those who needed her most. She is survived by her four sons and 11 grandchildren.

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