Mary Beck

Parishioner Mary Beck celebrated her 100th birthday at Woodlands Care Home, Poynton, on the afternoon of 12 January 2019. It was a very happy occasion and the Mayor, Sarah-Jane Gilmore presented Mary with some beautiful flowers. Mary’s daughter, Catherine, and son in law, Peter, were present, together with Mary’s 2 grandsons and their wives, and three great grandchildren.

Recently Mary became the oldest person to read the lesson during a service at St Philip & St James. Thanks to modern day technology Mary was recorded in her room at Woodlands reading the lesson and this was then played on the screen at the back of church during the service, it is good that she can still be an involved member of the church in this way. Rev Loveday Alexander takes Mary Holy Communion once a month and Mary looks forward to this. 

Mary, husband George and Catherine came to live in Wilmslow in 1963 after living in Cyprus for 3 years due to George’s job. They liked St Philip’s and St James’s church, Alderley Edge, Mary worshipped at St Philip’s until 2018 when she unfortunately broke her hip and could not be brought to church any longer.  She was a church member during the ministries of Rev Keith Malty, Fred Leese, Brian Young, Jane Parry and the present vicar Robin Pye.  

Mary taught in the Sunday School from 1965 to 1985 becoming the Superintendent. In the 1960s the Sunday school was held at St James’s church, a “tin tabernacle” at the bottom of Heyes Lane, Alderley Edge, and there were enough children to fill 2 coaches on the annual outing to Trentham Gardens.

Mary and George served on the PCC many times. In 1982 Mary was elected as a Deanery Synod member. She was a fervent supporter of the ordination of women and is naturally very pleased that in her lifetime she has seen women become ordained as bishops.

George did a lot of work on the Fabric Committee of the church and Mary supported him in this and was often seen holding ladders and assisting George.  She read out his reports at the PCC meetings.

For some years Mary organised the church lesson reading rota and would train readers in their expression and voice projection. She enjoyed reading the lesson herself and took the intercessions from time to time. She and George were sidesmen and sometimes acted as vergers too.

Mary has seen many changes throughout her 100 years. As a child she grew up in Tilehurst, near Reading with her younger brother John, who was sadly killed aged 24 in Burma in the Second World War. She attended the Abbey School in Reading from the age of 9 and after leaving held several secretarial posts including one in the Land Army Office. At the age of 24 in 1943 she signed up for the WAAF (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force) and underwent training at various RAF stations eventually achieving the rank of Flight Officer and responsible for ordering all the barracks’ supplies and aircraft parts and fuel at RAF Cotteswell and RAF Feltwell, supervising a large, mostly male staff. 

In 1951 she was posted to RAF Kasfareet in the Suez Canal Zone held by the British. There she met her husband to be, George, who was an employee of the Air Ministry Directorate General of Works.  George however was posted to Aden due to the abrogation of the 1936 Anglo-Egyptian Treaty which made travel for the British very difficult. George could not travel back to Egypt to marry Mary, so Mary undertook a very difficult journey to join George travelling to Port Said, Cyprus, Khartoum, Abbis Ababa, and finally Aden on a variety of aircraft and often being the only woman on the plane where nobody else spoke English. After the wedding in Christ Church, Steamer Point, Aden, they honeymooned in Asmara, the capital of Eritrea.

Mary and George returned to England in 1953 and their only child, Catherine, was born in 1955.  In 1960 George was posted to Cyprus for 3 years and the family lived firstly in Limassol, then Berengaria.

In 1963 the family settled in Wilmslow and Mary joined the Women’s Royal Voluntary Service progressing from office jobs to taking round the meals on wheels as an assistant and then as the driver and finally being put in charge of the maintenance of the various WRVS vehicles. She was given a service medal in 1991 marking over 27 years of service. Through the WRVS she got to know people who were lonely and in need of a visit and very often on a Sunday afternoon she would visit an elderly person and take them out for a drive. She continued doing this well into her 80s.

As well as her voluntary work Mary’s interests were her garden, and music and opera. She taught herself German from the Linguaphone course that was very popular in late 1960s.

Despite her age and not being able to walk Mary is still able to be involved in the life of St Philip’s church. Rev Loveday Alexander takes Mary Holy Communion once a month and Mary looks forward to this. Thanks to modern day technology and the technical skill of Mandy Parr, Mary has been recorded in her room at Woodlands reading the lesson and this has been played on the screen at the back of church during the service. Mary is the oldest person at St Philip’s ever to have read the lesson and it is good that she can still be an involved member of the church in this way.

The recording can be seen here.

There is an exhibition of Mary's life in the back of the church.


Rev Robin Pye said

“It is a real privilege for members of our church to be able to get to know Mary and converse with somebody who has played such an important role in our church for decades.

Having a direct link to the past like this greatly enriches our lives and gives us a useful perspective on ourselves.

Many people in this community will have their own memories of Mary, especially from her time as Sunday School teacher, and when they visit her they can relive these memories together with her; a rare and wonderful thing.”




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Page last updated: 13th Feb 2019 3:18 PM