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News | 14th May 2021

Charming and popular lady

Elizabeth Calvert (94 years old) at her home in Windsor, Berkshire. Picture by Steve Reigate 15/4/2021

Elizabeth Calvert,

By her son, Robert Calvert

ELIZABETH Calvert was born in April 1926 to Isabel, from a farming family in Oxfordshire, and John, a Scots Presbyterian, who had moved south for work.

She enjoyed a happy childhood in the south of England, the memory of which was always firmly etched in her mind.

After she had worked for a short time with Unilever, she studied economics and social psychology and served at St Mary’s Hospital, London.

Elizabeth was good at tennis, having been coached with sisters, Marjorie and Barbara, by her father and she was invited to play for the prestigious Aldershot United Services Club.

It was in Aldershot that she first met her husband, Tom, through St Andrews Scottish Soldiers Club.

He had been a minister of the Church of Scotland in the Braes of Rannoch in the Highlands and Waterside in Ayrshire.

He became an army chaplain with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers, serving in Dunkirk, Northern Ireland and Cyrenaica.

In Aldershot they became good friends and were married. moving to Portsmouth where Tom became minister of St Andrews Church for six years.

Robert was born there before they moved to Blackburn in Lancashire where William and Hugh were born.

After just three years at St George’s Church, they moved to Langholm, not far from Tom’s family farm in Cumberland.

The Old Manse in Langholm was huge, having been built in the 1600s and extended in the next century.

The drawing room was added in the 1800s and badly in need of repair.

It was also very cold and one winter one of the radiators burst with the swelling of ice.

The installation of storage heaters made little impression and the family became dependent on coal fires and a big old Rayburn in the kitchen for warmth and cooking.

Elizabeth reflected that “they were good days in Langholm, the boys growing up with freedom among the lovely hills and rivers”.

It was a great place to grow up for the boys who often only saw their mum at meal-times between playing football and on the river below the house.

Elizabeth made many friends in Langholm and was asked by the headmaster of the school to go in and help out as a teacher.

After some temporary experience, she trained at Moray House in Edinburgh and took a full-time job in Langholm for 23 years until she retired.

As a minister’s wife, she showed courage in establishing her own identity when her husband was consumed with parish work.

She said: “Tom was in his element, in ‘kent’ country, among farming people and also reared a few sheep on the 14-acre glebe land around the manse.

“I remember going into the field with him one cold dark night and hearing the bleat of our own first new born lamb.”

There was much humour in the farming community as they brought up sheep, cows and hens on the glebe.

When Tom retired in 1975, they moved further up the hill looking over the Lockerbie road at Becks Knowe which was on half an acre of glebe land the church allowed them to buy.

Elizabeth was a very outgoing person and always took people as she found them.

In her reflections upon life, she said: “We have to go where people are, to be seen to be relevant to their lives, their work, their interests and, of course, there are so many places which rise magnificently to the challenge but, wherever we are, whatever we try to do, as Tiny Tim observed in Dickens’ Christmas Carol ‘God bless us everyone’.”

Sadly, Hugh’s untimely death hit her very hard. It is always cruel for a parent to outlive their children and there is a tendency to blame ourselves.

After Tom died in 1983, she lived on her own and kept up with many friends in Langholm.

It was only after she suffered a spell of poor health, which no-one knew about, that she moved south to Windsor to be near William and his family.

Typically, she quickly made many friends in her little street near Windsor town centre.

She supported the new Windsor & Eton Brewery where she became its archivist and spoke at the launch of its new reception area.

She loved her little cottage in Spinner’s Walk, receiving many visitors, lunching at Monty’s round the corner and was always the glue of a family growing in numbers and around the world.

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