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Bank Street Unitarian Chapel

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Tribute to Vera Rigby by Brian Tonge


Most of you at Bank St will have fond memories of Vera Rigby, who sadly passed away earlier this month. Myself and Adrienne had been fortunate to known her since we discovered the chapel in 1996. Known by many as "Auntie Vera" she seemed to be involved in almost everything. As we became more involved we got to know her better. At almost any event or meeting we went to, Brunch, fund raising events and NELUM committee meetings, Vera was there. Our relationship was really cemented when we were delegates at the 1999 AGM in London. Vera was going as an individual and we offered her a lift. On our way back to the guest house after a day of meetings, it started to rain. Vera, prepared as usual, pulled out a rain mate. I remarked that I hadn't seen one of those for a while and we embarked on a long discussion on the merits of the design.

To Vera's amusement I concluded that it deserved better marketing to appeal to the modern generation. From then on, whenever we wimg 1834ent on holiday, I would look for a rain related present to bring back as a present. Amongst these was a hat with built in small umbrella from France, long before Peter Kaye discovered them. One of her  favourites was a Beijing Olympics 2008 umbrella. She was among the first in the world to have one. I'm not sure it was officially licensed but we bought it for 10 yuan just a few days after it was announced that China had won the bid. In return she bought me a present, a top of the range rain mate, with polka dots and a peak! It came in very handy, as you can see, when I was caught in a sudden downpour on the island of Hainan in the South China Sea.

On the way back from the AGM we called to do a small job on a concrete batching plant near Banbury. Vera was fascinated. The regional manager was there to meet us and offered a cup of tea. When he saw the look on Vera's face when she saw the kitchen he was full of apologies. It was actually well above average for such sites, but he decided to go to the office and get 3 brand new promotional mugs for us to drink our tea and keep. Vera was impressed.
At a weekend in Hucklow we played cards in the evening, the children loved Auntie Vera. I offered her a glass of Baileys. She had a large glass and as I poured I said "Say when". She mustn't have heard as it almost over flowed. In the morning she said, with a sparkle in her eyes, "That Baileys was nice. Is it alcoholic?".

I could go on, inevitably this is just a small snap shot, and many of you wil have your own memories. In the end her death came very quickly. We last saw her shortly after she was admitted to a care home. As we shared memories, particularly of the London AGM, the sparkle came back in her eyes and for time she was her old self.  On that last visit to her we were fortunate enough to find her in good spirits but the subject of death was broached and we asked how she felt about that. She said she was prepared, but hoped she didn't suffer a lingering death.  She will always be there in our memories.

                                                                                                                                        Brian Tonge

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