Norfolk teacher and Christian Aid stalwart
Retired Diss teacher and Christian Aid stalwart, Mary Dawkins (nee Pursehouse) died peacefully at the Two Acres Nursing Home in Taverham on October 29 after a long illness, aged 82.
Mary was ‘born to teach’, her birthplace being the School House in the Norfolk village of Wortham, where her father, Harry Pursehouse, was headmaster. Both her parents and all her grandparents were school teachers in Suffolk and South Norfolk, and her Uncle, Eric Pursehouse, was the Headmaster of Diss Grammar school.
Moving to Diss with her parents at the age of three, she attended Diss Church School and then the Grammar School where her main passion was sport; playing tennis and hockey for the Grammar School and Hockey for Diss Ladies and Norfolk County.
Mary left Diss in 1950 to become one of the first-ever geology students at Leicester University where she continued playing hockey and tennis for the University. She qualified as a geography teacher and taught in the South of England until she had her children. When they were young she threw herself into village life, starting the first-ever playgroup in the village and was one of founding members of the Bramley Village Association which is still thriving today. She also found time to develop her interests in gardening, pottery, painting, and photography.
Mary moved back to her native Diss in 1976 where she continued teaching maths and English, working with primary school children across Norfolk who were struggling in these areas. She developed an interest and expertise in dyslexia and was an early exponent of ‘coloured lenses’.
A long-standing PCC member and sidesman at St Mary’s Church in Diss, Mary was also a driving force behind many Christian Aid activities in the town for many years, including organising a number of very successful bi-annual Mount Street Open Gardens events, each raising thousands of pounds for the third world charity. She also helped to start the church’s Edward Bear club and was a keen member of the Antiquarians and Suffolk Wildlife Trust.
Mary is survived by her two daughters, Nicky and Pip and four grandchildren, Hannah, Thomas, Gabriella and Benjamin.
Son-in-law, Keith Morris, said: “Mary was a unique and very special woman, well known for her organisational abilities during both her teaching career and while arranging very successful open gardens and other events in Diss on behalf of Christian Aid and St Mary’s Church.
“But her greatest legacy was through her dedication to giving the best possible start in life to her two daughters, Nicky and Pip, who have gone on to successful careers in medicine and law and subsequently to her four grandchildren to whom she was totally devoted.”
The funeral will take place at St Mary’s church in Diss on Friday November 21, at 2pm, all are welcome.
Memorial site and donations to Christian Aid
Pictured above is Mary Dawkins in the garden of her Mount Street home in Diss and, above, in her younger days.