In honour of Miss Carolyn Eunice Clayson
Ahead of Stewardship Sunday later this month, our PCC Treasurer Alan Power has written about one of St Giles’ most generous benefactors, Caroline Clayson
Miss Clayson was, it seems, a self made-business woman who, in her prime, ran a typing agency based in New Oxford Street called Albion Typewriting. Some readers will be too young to remember those free-standing machines called ‘typewriters,’ but they were large and heavy and required a good deal of skill and bash-ability to use well. In the days before the invention of Tippex, and long before the backspace key was even dreamed of, mistakes were hard to correct and always led to messy presentation, so that it was always necessary to get things right first time around. (There was a nasty thing called a hard rubber, but we don’t really want to go into that). What’s more, an ability to spell came in handy for the good typist, as the automatic spell checker was still long in the coming. A typical employee of Albion Typewriting would surely have been someone like Miss J. Hunter Dunn of John Betjeman’s poem, ‘A Subaltern’s Love Song,’ ‘ furnish’d and burnish’d by Aldershot sun.’ew people any longer know the name of Caroline Eunice Clayson, but we at St Giles have good reason not only to know of her but to hold in our debt; and this is why. (I am grateful to Alan Power for the following notes and wry, witty observations).
(An interesting aside is that firms of Chartered Accountants always employed ‘A Lady Who Can Type Accounts.’ The main size of paper in use when Miss Clayson was going strong was Foolscap (13″ x 8″), slightly bigger than our A4. In those days accounts were usually set out in double columns [debit and credit] rather than the vertical format which we all use today. Double Foolscap paper was called ‘Brief’ and its use required a typewriter with an extra wide carriage, big enough and sufficiently violent in operation to easily knock cups and saucers off desks and onto the floor, making a devil of a mess and causing much irritation and a good deal of noise. We can imagine, perhaps, the skill needed to line up columns of figures, (pounds, shillings and pence), together with headings, descriptions and totals – no mean feat, pre-Excel).
Not only did Miss Clayson rule the typist pool but she also played her part in civic and local government life, rising to become Holborn’s last Deputy Mayor in 1965. (The gates into the churchyard, which in the past we have tried hard and unsuccessfully to get rid of, commemorate the demise of the said borough). She was also ‘a figure of some weight’ in the Holborn Chamber of Commerce; (I am quoting Alan here, and assume that only a simple metaphor is meant).
The Reverend Gordon Taylor said she was very kind and amusing (‘Mr Taylor was never particularly amusing, take it from me’ – Alan again). She must certainly have had a soft spot for St Giles-in-the-Fields because her work as a Councillor and as organiser of the Chamber of Commerce would have brought her into contact with many charitable organisations and good causes . . . and yet (and here we finally come to the reason why she is still remembered and honoured among ourselves) . . . and yet, she chose us.
Miss Clayson passed away on Friday, 18th August 1995 in Ramsgate, where she had lived for her last ten years, possibly in one of the many care homes there, for she was by then in her nineties. A notice in the St Giles Newsletter No. 504 for September 1995 stated:
‘St Giles Loses a Good Friend (and benefactress) in the death at Ramsgate of Carolyn Clayson, formerly the last Deputy Mayor of Holborn (1965) and a most efficient organiser of the Holborn Chamber of Commerce. She was in her nineties. The Rector officiated at her funeral . . . She did much hard work producing the monthly St Giles Newsletter. Even when she ceased business she continued to produce the Newsletter for a time. She was a very kind and amusing lady. May she rest in peace.’
She left £328,000 to St Giles and in her name a charitable Bequest was established in February 1998 by The Rector and two trustees whose objects were, and remain, to maintain the fabric of the church and churchyard so that they may be a ‘fitting setting for the Church of England services,’ to maintain the fabric of other properties of the Parish ‘which are used for the advancement of the Church of England religion,’ to ‘advance the Church of England in the Parish’ and, last but not least (!), ‘to provide or augment the stipend of the Minister of the Parish Church.’ The aims of the Bequest were set, no doubt, by the Rector, but the means of the Charity were solely due to Miss Clayson’s foresight and generosity, which continue to benefit the mission and ministry of St Giles to this very day.
First Sunday Giving | St John’s Hospice
As is our tradition, we will be donating our collections taken on the first Sunday of May to the St John’s Hospice in St John’s Wood. The hospice does extraordinary work, supporting over 3,000 terminally ill patients a year. While it receives some funding from the NHS, the hospice is heavily dependent on voluntary funding in order to continue providing care to all free of charge.
Asylum | A Christian ministry
If few have heard of Caroline Clayson, it may equally be true that few have heard of Asylum, a Christian ministry whose connection to St Giles arose from the close proximity of the Intrepid Fox, the public house that stood opposite the church gates (until demolished to make way for the block of flats now being built), and a renowned haunt of those from the Goth / Heavy metal fraternity (not really our scene). Since the demise of the Fox the small group of those committed to Christian witness among this cultural community have been meeting every Sunday afternoon in our Vestry House. The group seem to have re-established themselves again, which is good news, and to have begun to grow a little in numbers and in the range of their engagement with others. A monthly Sunday night venue has been found in Soho where they can meet for prayer and friendship and to enable them, over time, to meet with others. They ask us to pray for them, and we shall.
Worship over Holy Week and Easter | Thank You
Thanks are due to all those who provided our music through the days of Holy Week and Easter with such commitment, panache and skill – to Jonathan, Iestyn, the Quartet and the Choir. The Concert on the Thursday of Holy Week was a particular highlight, when our musical resources joined forces with instrumentalists of the London Arte Chamber Orchestra, directed by Fabricio Brachetta, and Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater was the principal piece. We are all so grateful for the dedication and enthusiasm that went into this night and our other times of worship. After the service on Easter Sunday morning we bid farewell to Andrew Thomas, the Quartet’s bass, who has been singing with us since 2004. I have come to know his voice very well and shall miss it! We wish him well.