A Magical Maundy Day Out

by Gerry Lynch last modified 29 Mar, 2018 05:06 PM

Dedicated church volunteers from Diocese at special day with Her Majesty The Queen

A Magical Maundy Day Out

An order of service and set of Maundy purses from the 1974 Maundy at Salisbury Cathedral. (C) Wehwalt, used under CC 3.0.

Two church people from Wiltshire and two from Dorset are enjoying an extra-special day at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle where they are to receive specially minted coins from Her Majesty The Queen at the annual Maundy service.

Every year, a number of men and women equal to the monarch’s age receive Maundy money from the Queen at a service on Maundy Thursday, so 92 men and 92 women have been invited to this year’s service from across Britain.

Bob Plaskett of Downton, David Tucker of Whaddon near Trowbridge, Margaret Smail of Melcombe Bingham, and Betty Sutcliffe of Upwey in Weymouth have received the honour in thanks for many years of dedicated service to the Church.

“You’re excited about it and want to make an occasion of it”, said David Tucker of Whaddon, “We’ve come up the night before and stayed in a hotel.”

At ninety-one years young, David is just two months younger than Her Majesty and still the churchwarden of the 12th Century St Mary the Virgin in the hamlet of Whaddon, three miles from Trowbridge.

David is still an active arable farmer, and previously also kept pigs and poultry, as well as being involved in the NFU and – a long time ago – being chairman of the local Young Farmers’ Club.

“I took over from my father as churchwarden fifty years ago”, David continued, “I’ve spent all my life in Whaddon and I’ve been married for seventy years.

“At one time we were the last cheesemakers in Wiltshire. We made eight sixty-pound cheddar cheeses every day.”

“For forty years, I’ve been a shepherd on the hills!”, says Margaret Smail of Melcombe Bingham, who was churchwarden at St Andrew’s in the village for twelve years, “It’s a wonderful life looking after a flock of sheep, making sure they’re healthy, doing the lambing.

“Although I wasn’t from a farming family, we were always country people and I grew up in the Woodford Valley near Salisbury.

“I’m very excited to be taking part in a very special day. I feel humbled to be recognised.”

For Bob Plaskett of Downton, it’s the first day of a very special moment in life; on Friday he celebrates his Golden Wedding anniversary. Bob is a lifelong resident of the village and a lifelong worshipper at St Laurence’s Church where, as a devoted campanologist, he is Tower Captain.

“Earlier this year, Bob was given a lifetime achievement award by his fellow ringers for sixty years’ service”, says his Rector, the Revd Frank Gimson.

“Bob’s career was in the health service and he retired as head of maintenance in Salisbury District Hospital.”

“It’s such an honour”, says Betty Sutcliffe of Upwey in Weymouth, “but I honestly think it’s also for all the other people who are involved with me, many of whom are far more deserving.

“I’m involved with St Laurence’s Church in the area, with one of my roles being a Lay Pastoral Assistant. That means I can take communion to the sick, and I visit housebound people on behalf of the Church, to pray with them if they can no longer get to their place of worship or just visit people who want some company.

“I’m also a member of the Salisbury Diocesan Synod, which helps run the Church of England in much of Dorset and Wiltshire, and was lay chair of the Deanery of Weymouth and Portland for some time. I’m also involved in a group which gives advice to parish churches about finances.”

Originally from North Yorkshire, Betty also lived in Lancashire, Gloucestershire, Surrey and Australia before moving to Weymouth thirty years ago.

“We originally thought we’d be in Dorset two or three years”, she laughs.

“My working life was as a secondary school teacher of PE and RE – so I get a lot of jokes about ‘muscular Christianity’.

“I keep thinking ‘why me’ about the Maundy invitation. I’ve had huge encouragement in my work for the Church from our priests and from local archdeacon, Paul Taylor, who encouraged me to try new roles and share my gifts.”

About the Royal Maundy

The giving of alms and the washing of feet on the Thursday of Holy Week are of great age. Royal Maundy can be traced back in England to the thirteenth century. The Service derives its name from the latin ‘mandatum’ meaning a commandment and its opening words are Jesus said: “I give you a new commandment: Love one another: As I have loved you, so you are to love one another.”

The gifts distributed to the recipients are symbolic; a red purse which contains a nominal allowance for clothing and provisions formerly given in kind and a white purse containing Maundy coins of as many pence as the Sovereign has years of age.

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