for Marion McRae Thorpe
7th May 1944 – 5th September 2016
(read at Eckington Church, Worcs. friday 23rd September 2016)
I feel very honoured to have the opportunity to talk about a period in Marion’s life which was significant, not just for her , and Mike, but for so many friends – some of whom are with us today.
For a brief but magical 3 or 4 years in the early 1980’s a flower came into bloom.
Weoley Hill Scouts and Guides was already a busy, thriving community in SW Birmingham, but when Marion, and Mike volunteered to set up and run the first Venture Scout Unit – Pisces – with male and female ventures, one can only imagine what they thought they were taking on; especially given their busy working lives in their respective teaching institutions, not to mention their own family commitments. Nor could the family have foreseen, and I include Cathy and David here, that their ‘family’ would grow overnight.
What Marion and Mike did between them was to bring together disparate groups of young people – helping us to recognise, harness and focus all that raging teen spirit; all that potential and energy in the most positive, creative and fruitful ways.
Marion was always so brilliant at sussing people out. So sensible to every individual’s needs, interests, issues. So warm and so open to possibility; fascinated with wanting everyone to reach their potential. So patient and generous; forever with that winning smile, with a brow that said: Come on then, what have you got? Encouraging us to think, discuss, to question and embrace the fulness of life by doing it. Getting out there and actually doing it.
Pisces had bags of personality, and the environment that she created with Mike heaped opportunities upon those of us who were hungry for it.
She encouraged self-motivation; she trusted us and expected us to take responsibility, to organize, to stretch ourselves, raise the game; showing us horizons that most of us didn’t know were there.
Weekends of adventure – spent camping, climbing, canal-clearing, hosteling, raft-racing on the Severn, doing sports competitions; overseeing the publishing of a Group magazine: Evenings of enlightenment; with talks by visiting specialists, cookery evenings, film and band nights, car mechanics, parachuting, abseiling…
But impressive though that all was, it was not just the activities – for what are they without the friendship, laughter and above all conversation;
…because you could talk to Marion about anything. Real, honest and open conversations that covered all manner of subjects – philosophical, political, personal. Conversations over skittles or darts in the pub; conversations in deep snow on the top of a mountain or in a garden around a campfire. These were the conversations that you wished you might be able to have with your own parents, but were somehow unable to.
Marion, and Mike, seemed to me to be model humans, genuine, beautiful, inspirational people with qualities that you would ever want to aspire to.
A conversations in the back of a yellow minibus somewhere on the A5, which I remember, in which we asked Marion to tell us all about Love. We, eager sponges – as her captive audience, whilst Mike took his turn to drive with a contented grin on his face, as she recounted their meeting, their time in Cambridge, their romance, and their enduring partnership.
I can’t apologise for including mentioning Mike so much, because to talk of Marion is to implicitly include Mike, and vice versa. They were inseparable to us.
If we were walking with Mike, then Marion was walking with us too.
The door was always open, they shared their house, their meals, home-brew; opening their hearts and their lives with us. I know I am not alone in saying I learned so much during that time. It really was the time of our lives.
Even though it was a relatively brief period, that friendship, and the impact of that magical time, over 30 years ago, has never and will never disappear. Forever after, Marion was there for us, unconditionally encouraging us through the joyful events, and supporting through the difficult / fractured times that life sometimes throws at us.
Marion, for showing us what it is to be a beautiful human.
for helping us to become the people we are
We love you and we cannot thank you enough.