From The Parish Registers At St. Martin's Desford

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Weddings 2019

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Eulogies for Jill Sharpe

There’s so many memories of Jill, so many I could share. I’d be here all day. So let me tell you about the Jill I knew. 

I think the thing I want to say most is that whenever I was with Jill I laughed. 

Sometimes at Richard, like when he fell asleep during a lunch, and Jill flicked yoghurt across the table and her aim was brilliant as it hit him clean in the face. 

Sometimes at myself, when my history knowledge was below par, and she was teaching me about things I’d never even heard of. 

Sometimes just out on shopping trips, when we tried on fascinators in the middle of Debenhams. Or the time I was asked to meet her in tarbrushes for a cup of tea, which I eventually worked out was Starbucks. But I still call it tarbrushes even now! 

Sometimes we would laugh at her, like when we would sit down to watch things on the tv, deal or no deal, spooks, the news, and then she would fall asleep, wake up at the end, and asked me what she’s missed.. 

Another thing I always appreciated from Jill was her wonderful advice. Whether it was listening to her when I was planning things for youth groups. 

The advice I got when I was pregnant with my son, and beyond, is invaluable. 

She also wasn’t afraid to give me a ticking off when I needed it. I remember one time I was procrastinating massively when I was a student and I got a right ticking off for not doing my assignments, I even got told that I wasn’t going out anywhere until it was finished! I mean of course I threw a strop, but knew you didn’t mess with Mrs Sharpe and got that assignment done! I owe a lot of getting through my degree to jill! It was all out of love though. 

I also remember myself and Richard getting told we couldn’t sit together at a meeting that was being run by Jill, as we were disruptive together, you did not mess with Mrs Sharpe when she wanted to get things done! I admire that so much though she was so strong.  

Between girly chats, trips to the garden centre’s, looking at clothes, her teaching me how to make risotto, her making mince pies with me as I’d never made them before, phone calls where she would listen to me, and we would chat. And I shall miss her, and was so thankful and fortunate to know her, and have her play a massive part in my life.

Jackie McCulloch

One summer, around 3 or 4 years ago, Mum and Dad had come down to visit Sarah and I in Woolwich. As usual, this included a family dinner in the Café Rouge in Greenwich, and as usual Mum had announced that she had been shopping for clothes for me; remember I was still only in my mid-twenties. Sarah, Dad and I had experienced this before, and waited with interest to see what would emerge from the bag.

First there came a light lemon yellow checked shirt. I looked to Sarah’s face as my guide, and seeing only a slight creasing of the eyes decided that this could perhaps be worn in private. However, it was then followed by what Mum insisted was a complimentary pair of trousers. It was in fact a matching pair of trousers. Also pale lemon.The exact shade.Even with my limited fashion faculties, I managed to conjure an image of my rounded form clothed in this ensemble. I resembled, in my mind’s eye, something akin to either a melon or the actual sun.

This is one of my favourite of memories of Mum, in that it summed up an aspect of her character which I have seen praised over and over again in the cards we have received. It was that selfless love that does not wait to be asked. It reacts on instinct to a perceived need. It sometimes even reacts with such speed and urgency that, as in this case, it might not stop to consider all of the ramifications and might even be done in spite of the desires of the recipient. Why? For their own good; whether they were aware of it or not.

I have been grateful for the messages people have given us, as it revealed that this kindness was a common theme to all of us. It did not wait to be asked to contribute, to guide, to assist, but simply did.

It also took people with it. It led by example, to the point I have found several times that even I, laid back as Mum always found me to her frustration, could not comfortably sit whilst others around me worked. That does not come from me. It came from her. It was that aspect of leadership which others have told me came from what she had done, and been, for many years; and showed others around her that she expected from them what she demanded of herself.

This could be painful, as I often found - in particular on the occasion that I and a group of fellow students from King’s London Chaplaincy were walking from Otford to Canterbury on pilgrimage. It was the 3rd or 4th day, and Mum had volunteered to support us as we travelled; partly as one member had considered hiking the 15 miles a day across Kent with a roller suitcase. She had parked the car, and had joined us in the church we were staying in just in time to see me laid up on a pew with one boot off and a bleeding foot, whilst my friends were very kindly getting our things out of the car.

She looked at me, looked at them, and said to me “I see you’re letting your friends do the work for you.” It is a testimony to the power of this person, and particularly the perfected teacher voice and look, that I actually started to get up and hobble off before I was made to sit down again and told to stop being stupid.

That was the example. You did not sit before others had sat. You do not eat until the others have been served, and you don’t complain of a bleeding foot when everyone else has trekked 15 miles as well. To my shame, I have not always lived up to this example. But it is thanks to Mum that I can never claim ignorance of its power, and its truth. To my pride, I have seen it shown to me in practice, and have had that practice commended to me by many here, in how Mum lived her life and supported my father in his.

She always was my keenest motivator, and the most effective.

I feel then that it is now for me to show that this motivation was not wasted. It is my hope that one day I will turn to my own children with the pale yellow shirt and trousers in my hand to give to them, to respond to their needs as she did; to show that love to others as she did, and through that perhaps they will see there even a little piece of the greater part that I was given to follow.

Christopher Sharpe

Jill’s friend Mrs Liz Collier observed to me that Jill would have been very embarrassed that such a crowd of people has covered such a distance-hundreds of miles-because of her. Jill was not an attention seeker. She was essentially shy. I said to Liz, “They’re here because of who Jill was, what she did and the memories you have of her.” Here are a few of mine.

Gillian Denise SHARPE, born Gillian Denise COOKE on August 5th 1944, in Melksham, Wiltshire. She was the only daughter of Frank and Maud. I never knew either, but I have met them through Jill. She was close to her father. When she watched the Festival of Remembrance every year on the television, when they played “Eternal Father” or “The day thou gavest Lord is ended,” she would often cry. Did she fully grieve for him?

Her cousin Viv (here today) described Jill’s mother as ( I quote) a “formidable woman” or, as Jill’s friend Judy put it “You didn’t get the wrong side of Mrs. Cooke.” She once told cricketer Geoffrey Boycott and current female companion, who had pushed to the front of the queue at some cricket tea, to, “Sit down over there and take your turn.” Don’t get me wrong. Mrs Cooke was a loving mother. She also died from lung cancer when Jill was 31 and Christopher is-you have guessed it-31 and his mother has died from lung cancer.

Jill’s earliest years were spent in Chester. Father was still away in the R.A.F. Then they all moved back to Driffield in East Yorkshire. Jill went to school on the train to Bridlington. Jill never liked trains much. If the train left at 8am, she would go for the one that left at 7am. At school, she met Pam (here today) and Judy (sadly detained by a sick relative in Southampton.) Jill came up through Brownies and Guides and that connection and ethos continued up until the mid 1990s.

Jill studied to be a teacher in Bradford. Her first school was Clifton Street, at the bottom of Beverley Road in Hull and not far from the station.

Jill found her way into Special Needs Education-both moderate and severe-and she stayed in it until retirement in 2012. Her school in Hull was Alderman Teskey King and her colleague and friend Liz Collier is with us, with her three daughters, for whom Jill was Auntie Jill and of whom the middle one, Rosie, was to play a crucial role at a very tender age.

In 1982, Rosie was presented for Holy Baptism at Holy Trinity Church, Hull, now known as Hull Minster. Her friend Margaret Nicholson from there is here today. Jill.walked in to that huge building, turned and said to someone, “What is that?” The “That” was me, an unmarried, under-fed man in his thirties and clearly in need of what OFSTED might call “Special Measures.”

Jill put those measures into place. She transferred to Holy Trinity and listened as I preached sermons. Unknown to me, a more long-term solution was being formed.

I discovered Jill’s surname COOKE was well-chosen; a surname that hungry bachelors should take note of.

C is also for cat; we had two each.

C is also for Carte, D’Oyly Carte or if you prefer Gilbert & Sullivan. I discovered that Jill and I had both been associates of the D’Oyly Carte Opera Trust, until the Arts Council, or some similar body, decided it was hopelessly old-fashioned and was dissolved in 1982.

C is also for car. Jill’s car was a Vauxhall. We called it little VAG because of the registration number. More about cars in a moment. I didn’t drive and Jill considered me to be one of the most physically un-co-ordinated people she had ever met.

C is also for Club. I ran a lads’ club on the estate at the bottom of Hessle Road, in the daughter church. Jill recognised how that could be vastly improved and came to help. She also ran a Brownie Pack and noticed that, when she came to open up, the heaters had been already switched on. A penny had begun to drop.

C is also for cupid. We were falling in love. A wedding was fixed for January 4th 1986 in the Church of the Holy Apostles, Walker Street, Hull. “I’ll read the Banns myself,” I said. Plans were made. We set off in the car to tell my mother in Leicester the good news. There was one thing I still hadn’t done. What was that? I still hadn’t proposed.

So, Jill stopped the car in a layby near Nuneaton, that Love Island of North Warwickshire-and I asked her to be my wife. There had already been a row in Corporation Street, Birmingham. I had a clean shirt so I didn’t see why I needed to buy a new one specially. I had much to learn.

For the Wedding, we self-catered for 200 guests at a £1 per head, including wine. The lads and Brownies filled the choir stalls, as did friends and relatives, including my Best Man, William, who is here today. A mixed company-everything from old Etonians to old Borstalians, with a good sprinkling of Owstons, drawn from Kirkbymoorside.

It was once said that a clergyman’s ministry was doubled or halved by the woman to whom he was married. Mine was trebled and, whatever little I may have achieved as a minister is largely due to her.

In the 1980s we were not aware that any training was offered to clergy wives. In 2019, some here will be shocked that she should have sacrificed any of her time to support me, when she was already employed full-time in her own, demanding career. But sacrifice she did and, where love is, it’s no sacrifice, it’s a joy….no problem in fact!

Jill. was allergic to onions. She was allergic to nickel. She was allergic to and skilled at spotting liars, including husbands who have been out with their mate to the pub and have just come in around midnight. She was allergic to sons, whose otherwise sharp memory sometimes played them false.

She was allergic to the greedy. As Boris might tell you, Avaritia non estsatis. Greed never has enough. It takes and it takes until it has bled you dry and then it spits you out. Generosity always has enough. It gives and gives because it loves. It is not seeking favours. It is not after something. It is not quid pro quo. Jill knew that and lived that. Understand that and you have understood her.

In 1987, some eighteen months after our wedding day, Christopher Peter James was born-Mum and Dad’s favourite boy. Children change a marriage and they change a ministry. Kick changed us. We changed him.

The three of us, plus four cats, left the Team Ministry of Chelmsley Wood, an east Birmingham housing estate of 20,000 plus, twelve baptisms a month, two part-time hospital chaplaincies, and we moved to St. Paul’s, Dosthill, south of Tamworth, Staffordshire.

“Are you sure you want to go there?” asked a kind Archdeacon. The living was suspended and the level of giving was the third lowest in the Diocese of Birmingham. I will delicately say that, like too many churches, it was stuck in a time-warp, with a low level of self-confidence, in a village which was filling up with Brummies, not born round there. It presented us with some challenging people, who found their new Priest-in-charge strange but kind. We stuck at it, the church grew. They held their first-ever Flower Festival in 1989. The Churchwarden said He couldn’t find anything to criticise -----high praise indeed.

We began a youth club and were helped by Mike and Sue Jones-here today-who became good friends. Jill was so creative, planning family services. Her crucial skill was to set up a group of young mums who, with their Bibles ready, were the delivery team. Jill recruited a gifted musician, who got them producing Christian musicals like Hosanna Rock. Jill encouraged Alpha and supported me in the large primary school, where Kick was a pupil.

By the time we left in 1997, a mission-minded Bishop George Kavoor, was willing to oversee things, until a new Vicar was appointed. He saw promise. The church went on to produce an ordinand.

Back to my home county of Leicestershire. Canon Willett wrote to us I have identified a vacancy, suitable for a family of three, with four cats. Some 26 people from Desford have made the 300 mile round trip to be here, plus some of Christopher’s friends who knew Jill, because she was his mum. So I will speak carefully.

Back in 1997 I was the seventh candidate to be interviewed. Things at both ends of the Benefice were badly-bruised and bruising never makes for growth. Jill and I were busy; youth clubs in both churches, lots of sermons and a culture of hospitality, in which Jill excelled. But the real trick is this. Clergy achieve as much or as little as their congregations wish to. Don’t ask How good was your Rector’s wife, or even her husband? Ask,“What are the people doing to share the Gospel”and“what will they be doing when he and his wife have left?” Leadership, delegation and risk-taking are key.

“All work and no play make Jill and Richard dull.” We loved our family holidays-in North Norfolk, North Wales, the Lake District, down in Dunster in Somerset and, of course, here in Ryedale. When Kick became a student in London, Jill and I loved the buzz of the place. We used our National Trust, English Heritage and Historic Houses membership to take us and Kick to so many places and, if that meant term-time, so be it. I considered the provision of History teaching deficient. Jill would never fly, so continental holidays were done by slow coach journeys.

We loved concerts in the De-Montfort Hall, Leicester, with the Philharmonia, sitting in cheap seats below the double bases.

Jill would say to me, You have no ambition. Ambition for what? I would think. She wasn’t ambitious either. What KoKo in The Mikado calls the long and weary dances of career and preferment we let pass us by.

We retired in 2012 to Kirkbymoorside, where we were warmly welcomed here at All Saints. There was coffee to be served, magazines to bundle, a Men’s Group to chair and for Jill, a Messy Church to recruit and oversee and “Storytime” in the library to prepare and give. There was room stewarding for us both at Nunnington Hall. In 2017, Christopher and Sarah were married at Christ Church, East Greenwich-a happy and memorable day.

Jill was injured in an attack on her by a student back in 2006. Her walking grew less and less. Her sitting was more and more. More recentlystill, she was gripped by several quite pronounced panic attacks.

Last year, research identified an in-operable tumour. Treatment gave Jill six months of more-or-less outwardly normal life and, true to form, she told only a few about her state of health, which is why it came as such a shock.

From last December, I was nurse. Jill gave up driving. She chose to die at home, which came on February 3rd. We exchanged one last Wedding Anniversary card-our thirty third-in January, in which we thanked each other for marriage, a son, a daughter-in-law and a home together.

On many occasions, Jill said to me I am dying. I saw this. I was given (and I will be given) time to think about this. I offer the following, interim observations.

First, what St. Paul wrote, “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen.”

Second, we have received so much. The coffin carries one word THANKYOU.

Third.Religious belief and Church have a particularly (and deservedly) bad press at the moment. Where was Jill’s God, they will ask? This is a crucial question. My answer is - on the Cross.

Last. A lady wrote to the Observer newspaper a few Sundays ago, Why are so many modern novels so dark? Sarah or Viv may offer an answer, but my reaction takes me to another woman, Mary: no, not in a stable, but despairing in a garden. She sees an empty tomb, full of light       

and she never looked back.

Richard Sharpe

Steve Price

  •          As far as uncles go he was the best
  •          He always had a joke to tell
  •          A really nice kind man
  •          He had a real zest for life
  •          A great friend whose advice I always valued
  •          He truly lived, laughed and loved.

These were a few of the sentiments expressed following the death of Steve Price, who died aged 68 following a short illness. The church was full to capacity for his funeral service on 16th October conducted by The Rector, The Rev Tom Ringland.

At the time of his birth in Bosworth Park Infirmary (now Bosworth Hall), Steve’s parents May and Dick were living in High Street in the building which eventually became Hutt’s ironmongery shop.

Very much what locals call “Old Desford,” Steve was baptised in St Martin’s Church and became a choirboy there. His mum and dad were married in St Martin’s, had their funerals there and four of his great grandparents are buried in the churchyard.

Originally trained as a chef at Leicester’s Central Institute College, Steve began full-time work at The Army and Navy Club in Pall Mall, a top London club for senior officers of the British Armed Forces. After he returned to Leicestershire his career went on to encompass the hospital, industrial, hospitality and university catering industries. He served a term as secretary of the East Midlands Industrial Catering Association and travelled with colleagues to Harvard University in America to study the catering operation there. At one time he was an area manager overseeing numerous pubs, restaurants and hotels throughout the Midlands and at retirement he was Head of Catering, Conferencing and Student Accommodation at Nottingham Trent University.

It was in Desford that Steve met Ina, his wife of 48 years. They went on to have a son, Trevor, who delivered a humorous and moving tribute to his father at the service, and daughter, Carla, plus six grandchildren: Megan, Georgia, Charlie, Maggie, Milo and Will now aged between 24 and 2. Then last year Ivy their great granddaughter arrived to Megan and her partner Jay. Over the years, grandchildren staying or holidaying with Steve and Ina was a common occurrence where Grandad turned every meal into a work of art.

It was said during the service that the term “Family Man” could have been coined for Steve. He adored his close and wider family and would do anything for them. He was the eldest of three children and his sisters Wendy and Pat were very close to their brother. With their partners they enjoyed lots of nights out, gatherings at each others’ homes and holidays together.

Ina’s family, originally from Scotland, also lived locally and the two sides of their families became very much entwined over the years. Cousins, nieces and nephews all mingled happily at Steve’s legendary barbecues and parties. He was regarded by all of them s a wonderful and generous host.

A keen boy scout in his youth as a member of the 94th Leicester Desford Scouts right up until adulthood, he was happy to help out as volunteer chef at a cub camp and fundraising scout barbecue.

Steve’s creative personality showed in some of his many interests over the years. He completed a course in dry stone walling and loved garden design. Photography was another hobby that he shared with his sister Wendy as members of the local U3A Photographic Club. He also had a wide range of DIY skills. His daughter Carla said that if you were ever stranded on a desert island forget Bear Grylls, her Dad was the one you’d need!

He could catch, kill, skin, clean and cook rabbits, build shelters in woodland out of pretty much anything and once even knitted a hammock-shaped shoe rack for a tent out of string. His DIY skills came in handy when for several years after retirement he and his youngest sister Pat bought and renovated old houses. Many family and friends also benefited from his freely given decorating and tiling ability over the years.

Other interests throughout his lifetime included badminton (he and Ina were founder members of Desford Badminton Club), horse riding, sailing (he had his Royal Yachting Association qualification), windsurfing, snooker, woodwork, table tennis, reading historical novels and his much beloved golf for the last 15 years.

The congregation heard that Steve was a thoughtful, spiritual and caring man with a great love of nature and the countryside. He completed the challenging 200 mile Coast to Coast Walk across the north of England in 10 days for charity and spent many happy hours teaching his grandchildren about plants, birds and animals.

Although Steve lived virtually all his life in Desford, he loved to travel. He and Ina were fortunate enough to visit dozens of countries worldwide during their life together, one of the most recent trips being to South Africa where he fulfilled a long-held wish to go on safari.

He would have been the first to say that he had enjoyed a very full, active, happy and contented 68 years and general good health until very recently. His popularity and standing as a friend, colleague and much loved family member was evidenced by the fact that there were people at the service from every decade and aspect of his life.

Almost £1000 was donated to Cancer Research UK in memory of Steve from those attending the service.


Holy Baptism 2019

17th Feb – Aria Gill

Cerian Lucy Tilley – 16th February 2019

The daughter of Ceinwen and Darren Tilley was baptized at St. Martin’s Desford on Saturday 16th February 2019.

Following in her mother’s footsteps whose baptism was done by her Grandpa; Cerian was baptized by her Taid (Grandfather John Stone) who shared leading the service with our Rector, Tom.

Along with her parents at this beginning of her journey of faith, Cerian was supported by four Godparents and many friends and family. We pray that from this beginning Cerian will develop a strong faith herself and continue to share in the Church family life.

10th Feb – Florence Wright



We offer our condolences to all who grieve or who have faced the anniversaries of losses


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