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News and views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
Issue 11 Spring 2010

Mary-Grace, Lady Hutchison MBE

A friendly note on a scrap of paper, an invitation to “share my soup”, a ringing laugh and outspoken views – yes, you will have met the most enthusiastically helpful, warm, fearless, incorrigible, funny and altogether splendid woman: Mary-Grace Hutchison. She certainly left her mark – and around 275 relatives and friends packed St Mary’s Church on 6 February to celebrate her life. And what a celebration it was!

Led by the Revd Peter Wintgens (her son-in-law), her four children each paid warm tribute, and all nine grandchildren played a part in the service too. With a deeply happy marriage to Sir Peter Hutchison and a close-knit family, yet her affection and concern reached out to all: “People were her oxygen”, said son Mark, recalling her pleasure in “scooping up” friends for drinks and the famous “Come and share my soup” – though “she had a total disregard for sell-by dates”, added daughter Elspeth Bryers.

Careful not to give her a halo, her son Sir Robert recalled how, in her haste to help someone she’d just heard was in trouble, she would take off so eagerly in her car that the one near by would suffer – the lesser problem of dealing with the owner left to Robert! Her “insatiable appetite to help others” involved her in twenty charities (recognised by her MBE) and twenty candles, lit by grandsons Hugo and Guy Hutchison, flickered on the altar accordingly.

She “paid scant regard to what people thought of her,” explained Mark, "the important thing was to express her views.” Whether one agreed or not, her integrity had to be admired. Her strength of character was seen too in her final years, her incapacity borne with dignity and huge courage. Central to her life was her profound Christian faith: daughter Alison Wintgens told of the “holding cross”, a gift from her beloved Rector, Kevan McCormack. Ever in her hand, losing it would cause a major upheaval; so precious, it was buried with her.

Her grandchildren’s tributes had great charm, amongst them Charlotte Bryers’ solo, Let there be peace on earth. Mary-Grace was an early recycler, “at least twenty years ahead of her time,” said George Bryers, recalling those letters on tiny bits of scrap paper. And, always a stickler for good manners, “Keep your elbows off the table, Freddie!” was her last admonition to 12-year-old Freddie Hutchison. Her grandchildren knew her as “Cuckoo”, and when brave little Lucy Hutchison, aged 5, seized the microphone and said, “I miss you, Cuckoo”, she spoke for us all. Joyful hymns, so many warm and happy memories, the bells pealing out afterwards, what a perfect tribute it all was to a most wonderful and dearly loved friend, mother and grandmother, Mary-Grace Hutchison!

Stop Press! A new beginning, with the arrival on 17 February of Beatrice Mary, born to Mary-Grace’s eldest grandson, Henry Bryers, and his wife Lucinda. She would have been Mary-Grace’s first great-grandchild.