Sunday, 28 November 2010

Dr Mary Hart (1923-2010)

Dr Mary Hart welcomes Hugo Swire MP to Fairlynch Museum

Budleigh Salterton's Fairlynch Museum could not operate without the volunteer staff who play a vital role in all aspects of this much-loved institution of the town, from managing the finances to acting as stewards when the building is open to the public.

All those involved with the Museum as well as many residents of the town were sorry to learn of the death at the beginning of this year of Dr Mary Hart, aged 86.

Dr Mary Hart, who died on 12 February, 2010, was born on 25 May 1923 to Albert Ernest and Winifred Maud in Derby where her father, Albert Ernest Sawday, was a General Practitioner. Her father bought a medical practice at Hillside, Crouch End Road in North London. Dr Mary was educated at Channing School, which was evacuated to Ross on Wye during the Second World War. She was then one of a small group of female medical students who trained in London during the latter year of the war. Both within her family and her school she was encouraged and challenged to achieve what she wanted to do with her life – a philosophy passed on to her family.
As a family the Sawdays spent many holidays at Tankerton, Kent, where they became friends with the Hart family from Sittingbourne, who also regularly holidayed there. When their eldest son, Robert, also won a place at medical school in London, he went to lodge with the Sawday family.

Dr Robert and Dr Mary were married on 20 July 1946. Dr Mary sat her final exams whilst pregnant with their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, who was born in May 1947. At this point Dr Robert was called up to do his National Service, which he did with the Royal Army Medical Corps. He found that he enjoyed this way of life and took a permanent commission. He was posted to Nigeria and where he was eventually joined by Dr Mary and their two small daughters, Alison having been born in October 1949. Their eldest son, Crispin, was born in Nigeria in January 1952.

On their return to the UK the doctors settled in Kent, and their youngest son, Timothy, was born in August 1953. The family lived first in Tankerton and then in Herne Bay, whilst Dr Robert worked at the Royal Army Medical College at Milbank in London. At this point Dr Mary was able to start working part time doing clinics locally.

In 1962 Dr Robert was posted to the British Military Hospital in Singapore, where he was joined by Dr Mary in 1963, once all the children were settled in boarding schools. Dr Mary was able to continue working as a civilian medical officer in the Hospital in Singapore, a very happy and fulfilling period of her career.

In 1965 Dr Robert resumed his duties at the Royal Army Medical Corps Headquarters, the family moved to the North Foreland, Broadstairs, Kent, and Dr Mary worked in a medical practice in Margate. However, in 1967 Dr Robert retired from the Royal Army Medical Corps and was appointed first Deputy Director and then Director of the Public Health Laboratory in Exeter, Devon

The family moved first to Cranford Avenue in Exmouth and then purchased Howewath in Moorlands Road, Budleigh Salterton, in the Spring of 1968, where Dr Mary lived until just before her death. This house was to become a happy gathering place over the years for their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Both doctors enjoyed the large garden which over the years produced fruit, vegetables and tobacco! Much loved cats and dogs also have resting places in the garden marked with camellias.

Dr Mary worked for medical practices in Exeter, Exmouth and Budleigh Salterton, but it was the latter practice that she particularly enjoyed, working with Drs Benson, Evans and Taylor. Although she retired in 1988, she hardly ever walked down the High Street without being hailed by a former patient, something she really appreciated. She was also involved in Family Planning Clinics and advising on adoptions in various parts of Devon.

Both doctors retired in 1988 full of plans for their retirement. They had a wonderful trip to Australia that winter, staying in Western Australia with Crispin and his family, and Dr Mary’s brother Martin, and in Darwin with a cousin.

Sadly their plans were thwarted when, in 1990, Dr Robert was diagnosed with Guillaume Barry Syndrome. Having spent some months in hospital, various aids were put in place at Howewath, (including a lift that was much enjoyed by the grandchildren – but scared the dogs) so that he could return home. His recovery continued slowly under the care and watchful eye of Dr Mary, but this was brought to an abrupt end when he suffered a stroke. After another spell in hospital he again returned home to be cared for by Dr Mary until he died in 1995.

Dr Mary enjoyed her growing family of twelve grandchildren, their various spouses, and seven great-grandchildren (plus two others that she knew of but were not born until shortly after her death) and has taken great pride in all their achievements. She always took a great interest in the travels of all the family, finding out information about the various places that the visited or settled. Her brother, eldest son and three of her grandchildren currently live in Australia and one of her grandchildren and his family are in Denver, Colorado. Although not a great traveller herself, she had two wonderful trips to Chile in the late 1990s to visit her eldest daughter.

During her retirement Dr Mary developed a great interest in tracing family history and kept in contacts with Sawday descendents around the world – a wonderful legacy for her family. She enjoyed many local family history events and meetings where she was able to swap knowledge and expertise with others researching their ancestors.

This led her on to an interest in the history of the local area and she started to volunteer at Fairlynch Museum in Budleigh Salterton. She took on responsibility for organising the rota for the volunteer stewards who do such a great job enabling the museum to open during the summer months. However, at the age of 84 she decided that it was time for a younger volunteer to step into her shoes, but she still helped catalogue and sort many of the items in the museum's archives. She was involved in this until she became ill in February 2009.

During the last twelve months of her life Dr Mary suffered various bouts of illness and was eventually found to have a non-Hodgkins lymphoma that sadly did not respond to treatment. However, she bore this trial, as she had born other vicissitudes in her life with great stoicism and dignity.

Dr Mary will leave a huge gap in the life of all her family. She was a highly intelligent woman who had an endlessly enquiring mind. She could multitask for years before it became fashionable – it was a family joke that Granny could read, knit, watch television and still win at cards. She was known as the family’s fount of all knowledge – had any of the family ever appeared on Who Wants To Be a Millionaire, she was the friend they would have phoned; even though she said she would be useless on pop music or soap operas, she seemed to manage to have some knowledge of those too! She was one of the original “technogrannys” quickly mastering the computer skills she needed to play online games with her grandchildren and keep up with her widespread relations on email and Skype.

I am grateful to Mrs Lizzie Hoskins for sending me the above obituary for Dr Hart.

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