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A special table for a remarkable old lady.

When Marjorie met Mary.

The lifelong friendship between Mary and Marjorie began in the nineteen thirties when both young women worked at the publishing house of Victor Gollancz.  Mary, who was Andy’s grandmother, would later marry the Lewes poet, James Reeves, and when, in 1960, Marjorie, very painfully, left her own husband, it was Mary who suggested she move to Lewes.

Mary and James helped Marjorie to find, what would become her beloved cottage, in Castle Banks and when Marjorie got back on her feet again as head teacher at, what was then, the Southover Girls’ Boarding School in Lewes, no one could have been more delighted for her than Mary.

It was a terrible blow when, six years later and just two years before Andy was born, Mary died suddenly of heart failure.  By this time, Marjorie had three grandchildren of her own, but, to her, it seemed the most natural thing in the world that, as Mary was no longer able to be there to support her family herself, she should become a sort of surrogate grandmother to Andy’s older sister and, later, to Andy himself.  By the time Marjorie died she had seven grandchildren and five ‘surrogate’ grandchildren in Lewes.

Why Andy built Marjorie this bespoke table.




Towards the end of Marjorie’s life she became very frail

She had always been a great reader and had, in fact, been one of the first women ever to study at Oxford University, where she read English. The many visitors who regularly dropped in on Marjorie’s cottage will remember her bookshelf of enormous reference books, which she regularly reached for during conversations to look up the meanings and origins of day to day speech, which most of us take for granted.  Disastrously, as Marjorie became weaker, not only did sitting and standing become difficult but, also reading, because her strength was failing in her wrists.

Andy decided to build Marjorie a special oak table, strong enough for her to lean on as she stood up and sat down, and on wheels so she could position it easily.  She was even able to use it in lieu of a zimmer frame to support herself in travel across the room.

The Joints (pictured left) are staggered, allowing the fillets to go almost completely through the entire leg, so the table is easily strong enough to be leant on heavily.  There is a lip around the top of the table so cups and plates can’t slide off and the book stand, in keeping with the table, is made of prime European Oak.  It enabled Marjorie to read her heavier books comfortably, without having to support their weight through her wrists.

Marjorie died over ten years ago now but her bespoke table is still going strong, a reminder of two remarkable women, Mary Reeves and Marjorie Phillips and a friendship that shaped so much of the future.  As a final, remarkable twist in this small history, Andy married Marjorie’s granddaughter, Dinah, in 2001.  Here is a rather battered image of Marjorie (left) taken at their marriage ceremony in Anne of Cleves.  The woman on the right is Dorothy (Doff), Marjorie’s sister, who was also like a great aunt to Andy.