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Brigitte’s Charity Calendar

February 08, 2017 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Story of the week, Wensleydale People No Comments →



No one was more surprised than Brigitte Duquesnoy of Hawes when her charity calendar raised £450 to be shared between the Great North Air Ambulance and Breast Cancer Research.

When Brigitte and I set out for Kirkby Stephen in July last year neither of us knew what to expect when we reached the Picture House Portraits studio.

‘I wanted some photographs for my family. It’s my grandmothers 85th birthday at Christmas and she loves having photos of her grandkids and great grandkids,’ she said later. ‘I have never found myself photogenic and I thought a professional photographer would see me in a different light.’

Brigitte and I have been friends since she came to me as an au pair over 20 years ago. The first thing she said to me and my young son, Eddie, was: ‘I don’t like children, I can’t cook and I can’t drive!’

Not the best start, but we all became good friends very quickly and the arrangement worked very well. She returned to Belgium about a year later and then decided she preferred Wensleydale so she came back as our lodger, learnt to drive and found work locally. She joined the Wensleydale Creamery 18 years ago, met Kevin Fothergill, and so moved to Hawes.

I was looking forward to the lovely drive to the studio in Kirkby Stephen but both of us were nervous. Brigitte had seen the studio after an appointment at a holistic centre there.

She told me: ‘I went to the bakery to buy some cakes and I noticed its Art Deco shop front. I really like retro and vintage. Instead of doing something modern I wanted something quirky, something different.

‘I asked you to come with me to help choose costumes. I’ve never been into dresses before. It was quite daunting. At my age (she was then 44) I never expected to do such things. I hate posing.’

She found it even more daunting when she found that the studio was holding an open day and she would have an audience. But that audience included two experienced models, Kerry Delia and Emma Higginson,  and one of them set to work on transforming Brigitte into a quite stunning 1920s lady. Getting her to relax in front of the camera took a bit longer.

It was fascinating to watch the transformation thanks to the encouragement of the photographer, Andrew Fowler, and the two models. The studio had an array of costumes and Brigitte moved on from the 1920s through to the 1950s.

‘When I saw the results it was such a morale booster. It was quite an eye-opener. It brought me a lot of confidence. I would advise it for anybody because he did a very good job,’ she said.

She was so encouraged that she decided to enter a competition for a free photo shoot with Andrew and, to her amazement, was the winner.This time Kevin accompanied her for what became a truly memorable occasion which provided most of the photos for her charity calendar.

‘The photographs were just for fun – for family and friends,’ she said. But then she discussed with Kevin the possibility of creating a charity calendar.

For many years she has been involved with fundraising for charities: helping with the garden parties organised by Pauline and Bill Hasted of Mallerstang to raise money for the Great North Air Ambulance; and then baking cakes for events at the Creamery during the annual Breast Cancer Awareness month. (She is now an excellent cook.)

So they contacted Simon Iveson of Pennine Print. ‘Without Simon we would not have been able to raise as much – he charged us as little as possible,’ she commented.

Andrew designed the A5 size calendar free of charge and all the profits have gone to the charities.

Once they had a preview copy pre-orders were taken by Carol Waggett at the Creamery so that there would be no surplus stock. By Christmas they had 86 orders, and afterwards the number went up to 102.

‘I never thought I would get 100 but it’s quite funny to see me in that kind of attire. That’s probably why people have bought it – it was funny and it was like something nobody expected me to do.’

She took a set of photos to her family in Belgium at Christmas and even her grandmother liked the calendar. ‘She was delighted. She could not believe that I dared to do such things because she knew I never liked my photo taken.

‘I never thought we would raise as much. I want to thank everyone who supported us,’ Brigitte said.

Now people are asking if she will make another calendar for next year. She is not sure that even for charity she will be brave enough to do it again.

Hilary Davies

April 10, 2015 By: Pip Land Category: In Wensleydale, Wensleydale People 1 Comment →

Many gathered at St Andrew’s church, Aysgarth, on Friday, April 10, to say goodbye to Hilary Kathleen Davies (1933-2015). The Wensleydale village of Thornton Rust where she had lived for so long, was almost empty as so many of the residents attended the service of thanksgiving for her life. hilary

Here is what the Rev Canon Sue Whitehouse, former vicar of Aysgarth, told us about Hilary.

Several of Hilary’s friends have contributed their thoughts and memories to this service – not least Cordula from Germany. Over the last years she and Hilary have been very good and close friends and although Cordula is not able to be with us today I know that she is putting aside this hour to be here in spirit.

And so we come to say our farewell to someone who from 1972 – when the then headmaster of Wensleydale school took her on a tour of the outlying farms to show her where some of the pupils lived  – she was totally committed to Wensleydale: to its young people and families; to church and choirs; and to its countryside and nature.

The photograph on the front of the service sheet (above)  shows a Hilary of earlier days: always busy, coming home from school, taking Honey (her dog) up the Outgang in Thornton Rust, having tea with her parents, and then  out to meetings or choir practices.

And, in the early days of retirement she was still busy: at the Citizens Advice Bureau, as churchwarden at St Andrew’s, at the Mission Room in Thornton Rust, with the diocese and the deanery synod, and with various choirs, courses and expeditions abroad. Or she was looking after her parents in to their very old age. As she became more and more physically limited she found life very hard and frustrating and difficult to accept. And so it was, of course, difficult for those around her.

A sustaining faith

But throughout her faith sustained her and she was prepared for her dying. She often spoke with Cordula about death – peacefully and without fear.

I’m reminded of a painting by Salvador Dali where a girl stands at an open window looking beyond the familiar harbour to an unending vista. A description of the painting says of the girl: “Fully attentive she is ready to recognise and greet a hope-filled future.”

So as we come to hand Hilary back into the arms of her Maker we do so in sadness as we remember times past, in gratitude for having known her and in trust of God’s promise in Jesus’ death and resurrection of eternal life for her, now in God’s nearer presence, and for ourselves, as we continue our earthly journey.

Her early life

Hilary was born at Low Fell in Gateshead in 1933. During the war when Gateshead was in danger of being bombed she stayed with her Grandma Sharman in Stocksfield, County Durham. And, although her love of Wensleydale became deeply ingrained she still always held a light for the north-east and the Lambton Worm was one of her party pieces.

Animals were always an important part of her life, culminating in Sam (Samson) – rescued as a kitten from a wall, I think, along Thornton Rust Road, and (became) very much part of her life at The Bield (Hilary’s home in Thornton Rust).

Her love of music was fostered at Gateshead Grammar School according to her friend, Ann.  Hilary went on to read Botany and Bacteriology at King’s College which became Newcastle University. As a child Hilary had poor health and Betty Cawte remembers that her mother worried about her taking part in field expeditions. Hilary, of course, continued to organise school field trips when she was teaching.

Her first post was in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, where she taught with Margaret Bottle. Margaret left some years before Hilary but she and Ted went back to visit…

On one occasion Hilary needed some flower specimens for a lesson at school and so took them to Ditton Priors. Nearby was a “hush hush” secret naval base which had been served by a now overgrown branch line. Ted, a railway buff, explored the line while Hilary and Margaret gathered the flowers.

The next day at school, Hilary was visited by two men who, on a tip-off, had travelled up from London in order to question her as to why she had been in the area of Ditton Priors. They fortunately accepted her explanation!

In 1964 Hilary moved to Cartwright School, Solihull, and then in 1972 to the Wensleydale School where she became a Deputy Head and helped to steer the school through some difficult and stressful times. She was always a devoted and loyal member of staff who was understanding and encouraging. She continued to take an interest in all her former pupils, several of whom recently cared for her in hospital and at Sycamore Hall (Bainbridge).

Her love for others

She was generally interested and concerned about people. She delighted in her family – her cousins and their families: Sybil and Michael; Donald, Christina, Joseph and Erin; Neil, Penny, Martha and Peter; Paul, Judith, Owen and Hugh; Valerie and Eric and their family, and latterly, in particular, enjoyed and talked about their visits. She was a kind and caring godmother and had a great capacity for friendship.

Margaret Carlisle from the States said that “though there were thousands of miles between our homes – when we saw each other we would share endless cups of tea from the little blue teapot, as we laughed and cried together, consoled and advised each other, and caught up with all our news.” And, for others too like Cordula, the “little blue teapot” was an important symbol of a special friendship.

Hilary always remembered people. When Jackie was helping her to sort out decades of theatre and concert programmes, Hilary would always know who had been performing in the play or concert and which friends she had been with to see a performance.

In her last years she was grateful to friends and neighbours like Ian at Thornton Rust and the staff at Sycamore Hall who helped her through difficult times.

Her vision of God’s Kingdom

Hilary’s faith was a constant throughout her life but it was not static. As a member of St Andrew’s and Thornton Rust Mission Room she worked indefatigably on practical matters but also had a vision of God’s Kingdom beyond the parochial. She looked to build on the past and move forward into the future. There was always an integrity and wisdom in her thinking and in all aspects of her life as sense of “One who serves”.

Her spirituality was, I think, both nurtured and expressed through her singing, her artistic talent and her love of nature – using her gifts in praise and thanks to God.

Her love of music

Over the years she sang with many choirs: the church choir at St Andrew’s where she encouraged youngsters in their RSCM awards; the North Yorkshire Chorus with whom she went on tours in Finland, East Germany, South Carolina and France; the Harp Singers; and in the 1990s there were special pilgrimages to the Ancient Churches of Asia Minor, Rome and in the footsteps of St Paul with the BBC Pilgrim Choir.

She missed her singing with choirs very deeply and used to sing along to familiar works on her CDs.

She was always interested in discovering and exploring the natural world. At Sycamore the birds coming to the feeder at her window gave her great delight every day and indeed she was sitting looking out of her window when she died.

Resurrection life

Her artistic talent was put to use in children’s work and displays for the church. The toddlers’ rainbow of glue and tissue paper was in her airing cupboard for three days before it dried out. It is poignant at this Easter season to remember that the egg rolling that took place this last Sunday was originally Hilary’s initiative – a symbol particularly for her of resurrection life.

For all of us the Easter message of freedom, release from the restrictions that hold us back from the full life that God offers begins in the here and how. For us there are still earthly boundaries but for Hilary (there is) the wide vista beyond the known harbour.

Psalm 126, in a translation from the German version, says: “When the Lord will release the prisoners of Israel, we will be like people who are dreaming, our mouth full of laughter, our tongues full of praise.”

We are called to lead our earthly lives within the dimension of the promised state – for Hilary it is now a reality.