Veronica Macmillan RIP
I welcome you all to Veronica’s funeral, not as her friends, not as her fellow parishioners, though both are true, but as her family that is the family of St Johns.
Veronica Josephine MacMillan, known to everyone as Vee, was one of those people that is known by everyone, but not always known to everyone. She was born in Bath on 29th April 1925 to a local GP and his wife.
They moved to 5 Pierrepont St in the 1930s and she lived there with her parents and then her late sister, Audrey, all her life. On her father’s death while she was still quite young, she and her sister looked after her Mother and St Johns became the centre of their lives. After Audrey died in the 1980s Vee lived alone in the top flat at 5 Pierrepont Street.
Vee went to school in Bath then to Bristol University, and then taught Science at Bath Convent for many years until it closed and she went on to The High school. Among her pupils were my wife Sue and Anne Widdicombe, and many other ex-pupils are still living in and around the City. Those that I know speak kindly about her, but sometimes with warm amusement at the way they were taught. One told us this week that she owes her understanding of compound interest to Miss Macmillan.
Vee was a private person and few became her intimates, but she was always referring to ex-colleagues and pupils, so contact was maintained, and I think she is the last but one of her group of teachers, as I know of only one other.
However when she discussed something with you, the conversation was always positive and thoughtful...often tackling me before Mass about something ‘The Government’ was doing, invariably ‘wrong’. Her sharpest comments concerned her taxes. A demand would arrive - Is it right she would say. Yes it is!! ‘oh drat’ would be the reply, with a grimace and ‘I had better pay then’. If it was a refund, then it was a wide smile and ‘jolly good show’. I visited Vee on the Saturday before she died and when I asked her how she as, she said fine, but that the Doctors do not know what they are doing!!
One of her favourite hobbies was Birds. She was a long-time member of RSPB and would take bird watching holidays, well into her 80’s in remote areas of Scotland and similar places, the terrain of which would daunt the best of us. Sometimes these trips took place shortly after broken bones had mended or ‘flu been thrown off!! She bounced back very well from most things.
St Johns was her second home, she loved coming here, usually for daily Mass unless prevented by illness. That seat in that pew (point to pulpit) was hers...one end when Sacristan, the other when past sacristan. In her last few years she would come in with a stick... OK... but then a walking frame. The charge up the aisle was fast and positive... you kept well clear!!!
Most of us remember Vee as sacristan...firstly assistant to Mildred for many years, then she took over, beetling around the sanctuary putting things in place – and woe betide you if you put it in the wrong place or incorrectly. You were told off, firmly but kindly and learnt your lesson. She had to give up about five years ago but by then had served four or five parish priests.
To call her an eccentric would to be unkind but at times, eccentric she could be. Her dress sense was often eclectic, but sometimes beautiful, and I am told she made a lot of her own clothes.
My children remember one snowy morning - about an inch or so - when Vee turned up in green wellingtons and an old brown Mac, and proceeded to sort out the altar.
Her love of St Johns was such that some years ago she offered to fund the re-gilding of our Rood Screen but it was not acted upon. Earlier this year the idea was resurrected by Vee and this time her offer was accepted by the parish. Vee made a donation of £25,000 so that the work could be done in 2017. It is a great pity that she will not see the result of her generosity. BUT it will be a fitting memorial to her and a reminder to us and the church of her love for it , her parish, her friends and her Lord, with whom we are certain she is, possibly even now arranging a heavenly altar (with or without her green wellingtons).
Vee was a one off, a never to be forgotten character, who loved St Johns, and was loved by St johns, who loved life and will be greatly missed by all who knew or were involved with her.
Good night Vee. May you rest in peace.