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Obituary: Alison Adcock

09 October 2020

Anne Malins writes:

FOR many people, Alison Adcock, who died in Oxford on 5 August, aged 101, was a rather stern figure, with an amazing memory, tremendously gifted in logic, history, and theology.

For me, for many years, she was the writer of letters to the Church Times (which I usually needed to read two or three times) and also to my father, Canon Eric Perkins (1908-99). He showed me a few, when they related to my education.

Alison entered Girton College, Cambridge, as a Rosalind Carlisle Scholar, and graduated in 1940 with a first in Classics. In 1943, she married the Revd Arthur Adcock, whom she had met in Cambridge. She assisted in parish work in both Dorney and Yarnton, in Oxford diocese, undertook work with children and the parish magazine, and cared for and coached resident students mostly from overseas. She taught in schools for some years and was an active member of the Women’s Institute.

In 1966, she read for degree in divinity at St Anne’s College, Oxford; four years later, in 1970, she became one of the first two women Readers licensed in the diocese of Oxford. From 1975 to 1980, she represented the laity of Oxford diocese on the General Synod.

Alison was an active member of the Movement for the Ordination of Women and also involved herself in matters green and ecological. When she was widowed in 1989, she continued to be active in church affairs, and became a keen participant in Oxford University’s courses in continuing education, especially in architecture, art, history, and religion

In her letters, Alison’s name was, therefore, familiar to members of the General Synod, but more notable to me were the incidents when she and my father strongly resisted attempts to discourage under-16s from teaching in Sunday school, and when she supported my refusal to take up a bursary at boarding school

During my mother’s last illness, Alison wrote many encouraging and supportive letters. It was only after my mother died, in 2008, that I discovered that Alison was a former head girl of my school, and cousin to my favourite schoolmistress, Mary Butler (sister of the Abbot of Downside), who had taught me throughout secondary education.

From her letters (2008-12) I learned that my mother and Alison became close friends in 1938. Alison, “at home from Cambridge, had become too ‘Catholic’ for All Saints’”; so she joined a cousin’s family to worship at the church where my father was priest-in-charge. My mother was a year older than Alison, my father a decade older.

“I am in awe of your mother, aged 20. At 24, when I married, I was totally ignorant of cooking and running a house.”

Alison wrote also that, in the early years of her life as a “clergy wife”, she was “In awe of Eton wives and wives of London Professors, also redoubtable Eastenders living in former RAF huts. I found that I could speak in public more easily than I could converse, even in the Albert Hall and at Labour meetings! I found that I could make people laugh!”

Many people will find it difficult to think of Alison “in awe” of anyone; so I shall treasure these letters, and have sent scans of them to her daughters (in our youth, referred to as “your godsisters”, because the youngest is my father’s goddaughter).

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