3rd April 1923 - 21st January 2013
Margaret Underwood was a keen and long term member of Takeley Local History Society having joined at its formation in 1998. She was a fiercely independent lady, always preferring to walk to meetings even when recovering from hip and knee operations. Offers of lifts were very politely declined and you didn't argue with Margaret. Her contributions to Takeley village life were wide-ranging as described in the family tribute below and her particular contributions to our archives included the transcription of all the Takeley Chapel records which she carried out using her trusty typewriter.
She will be very much missed.
Not long after I met Malcolm, he told me that his mother was a remarkable woman. All of you here today knew Margaret to a greater or lesser extent, and l am sure that you would agree with his assessment. She dealt with her experiences of grief and loss privately and lived her life in a positive, matter-of-fact, cheerful way.
Margaret was born on 3 April 1923 to Reg and Dorothy Jordan, two years after her brother Tony. Her father was a schoolteacher in Ealing, and in the years leading up to his retirement he taught at Horsenden School, where in 1938 Arthur Avery started teaching and in the course of time met Margaret. Arthur went into the RAF during the Second World War, whilst Margaret went into war work in Llandudno. They married in 1944: Malcolm was born in 1947 and Robin in 1948 and Arthur and Margaret provided a strict, careful upbringing for them in their home in Ruislip. Margaret was active in the South Ruislip Residents' Association, and the Liberals, and was a founder member of the Townswomen's Guild in South Ruislip.
After Arthur died suddenly in the summer of 1966, Margaret undertook teacher training, specialising in history, and became a primary teacher. She married Rex Underwood in 1969 and when he retired from teaching the following year they moved to Takeley, a village near Stansted Airport, and Margaret continued to teach at a primary school in Bishops Stortford for a few years. She learnt to drive, and developed her cooking and embroidery skills. Problems with her hearing made teaching difficult, and she moved into working for local companies, firstly in Bishops Stortford and then in Takeley itself. Rex died in 1981, and Margaret continued with her service to the community: she was on the Parish Council, attended the Congregational Chapel in the village, was on the committee of the local Day Centre and for many years provided puddings on a rota basis for the twice weekly lunches for elderly residents. She worked on the entrance booth at Hatfield Forest and arranged lecturers for the local Workers Educational Association courses. Having given up driving she became involved in liaising with the local bus companies about bus services and the provision of a bus shelter in the village. Margaret had always enjoyed walking and combined this activity with further service to the community by usually taking with her a picker and a plastic bag for any litter she came across. She participated in the village 'Take Care' project by receiving telephone calls from local people requesting help for things such as transport to hospital and passing them on to the relevant people. She regularly visited housebound neighbours.
Margaret was a member of the local Embroiderers' Guild and took part in a project in the 1980s to produce a large wall hanging depicting the notable buildings in Bishops Stortford. She made embroidered tablecloths for Robin and Susan, for Malcolm and me, and for my parents to commemorate their Golden Wedding anniversary, and a patchwork quilt for Rachel. She designed, knitted and sewed garments for herself.
From the 1980s until about 2008 Margaret spent two weeks each year in the Scilly Isles, staying in the same guest house in St Mary’s. She enjoyed exploring the islands, going on boat trips to the Western Rocks and in the evenings went to talks and slide shows about island life. Eventually the long journey through London and down to Penzance and by helicopter to the Scillies became too much. As mementos of her holidays she embroidered a series of panels featuring different aspects of the islands.
Margaret’s health was good until recent years, and she was glad to be home after operations for hip and knee replacements. She had to cope with a long period of recuperation after breaking her wrist and elbow when her heavy shopping trolley pulled her over on the escalator in Marks & Spencer. At the end of 2011 she made a remarkable recovery from a serious operation for bowel cancer, returning quite quickly to her normal routine of going out just about every day into the village or into Bishops Stortford.
In recent years Margaret attended the United Reformed Church in Bishops Stortford and was grateful to Judy Marlowe who provided transport for her. When she stayed with Malcolm and me she came to Ruislip Baptist Church where she was made welcome, and where she made friends with Miriam Hammond and other ladies, and where she admired the minister Derek Page.
Margaret loved her grandchildren Rachel, Stuart, Philip and Christopher, and when they visited decided upon activities with them which they could enjoy, such as walks in Hatfield Forest, caring for Rex’s little dog Huggy, and picnics. She chose presents for them with great care, and enjoyed spending time with them as they grew up. She was proud of their academic achievements, especially of Stuart's doctorate, and she was delighted to attend the weddings of Philip and Lucy, Rachel and Patrick and Stuart and Katie. Her great-grandchildren Anna, Joshua, Mia, Daniel, Madeline, Zac and Finley gave her great joy. She insisted on going to visit Chris and Rachael on Boxing Day so that she could see Madeline and Finley. She had obviously spent a great deal of thought and time during the autumn of 2012 buying Christmas presents for all the children, and as usual she had made excellent choices.
Margaret kept up contact with Rex’s children by his first marriage, and especially with Ilona, Rex’s daughter-in-law who lives in Australia, and her daughter Mair, who with her husband Sam has two children.
In November last year Margaret told Malcolm that she could not cope with living alone any more. Malcolm arranged for her to be cared for in Poplars residential home in Ruislip, and she moved in December. Having been so independent for so many years, and having given out in so many ways to others, she found it very difficult to cope with life in a care home, but was determined to make the best of things. We want to thank the Director and carers at Poplars for their kindness and loving care for Margaret over these last few weeks. We would also like to thank the staff in the Stroke Unit at Hillingdon Hospital where Margaret spent her last few days suffering from the consequences of secondary cancer. Their patience and kindness to Margaret and to us were exemplary.
Writing this has brought home to me Margaret's industriousness and generosity, her concern for others and her desire to contribute positively to her family and to her community. She read widely, had strong views on a wide range of topics and expressed these firmly. She has inspired great affection in those who knew her, and her example continues to encourage and inspire us.
Barbara Avery 30 January 2013