Obituary: Margery Turnbull, solicitor and Iona Community member

Margery Turnbull, solicitor who found fulfilment through her Christian faith and friendships. Picture: Contributed

Margery Turnbull, solicitor who found fulfilment through her Christian faith and friendships. Picture: Contributed

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Born: 29 October, 1922, in Falkirk. Died: 29 April, 2015, in Edinburgh, aged 92.

A life given to service and humanity, adapting at all times to any circumstances or people, describes the full and exceptionally varied life of Margery Turnbull. Throughout her life she was of a charitable and benevolent nature, tender and sympathetic and of a kindly disposition. With a desire to create peace and harmony in even the most difficult situations, she worked throughout her life in a variety of positions involving self-discipline, patience, courage and determination and as a ­result made life-long friendships throughout the world and received respect and admiration for the many who knew her and regretted her death.

Margery was born the only daughter of Thomas Turnbull and Catherine Elder or Turnbull in Falkirk and her father was a much revered, well-known solicitor with a number of public duties and responsibilities. Her aunt, Madge Elder, who died in 1987, achieved distinction as a freelance gardener and as a writer of books relating to gardening and the history of the Borders.

Margery showed an aptitude for learning at a young age and gained a degree in history at St Andrews University in 1945, followed by a social study qualification in 1946. During her time at university she became involved in evangelical organisations including Scripture Union and summer camps.

She then proceeded to train as a solicitor, gaining an LLB degree in Edinburgh and she was formally enrolled as a solicitor in 1950. She also gained office experience at McAdams in Edinburgh and her inherent wish for harmony came to light when she was awarded a peace prize in 1953.

She worked in Holland, Spain and France and attended a course of European studies at the University of Nancy. She served for periods in her father’s legal firm in Falkirk and returned there to support the firm when Thomas Turnbull died suddenly on a Mediterranean cruise. His unexpected death had a profound effect on Margery and her mother.

Although her work in the law was carried out with her usual determination and dedication, her true wish and strongest leaning were to help others, particularly those in circumstances where she felt there was inequality and oppression and where there was a requirement to fight for the rights of those who she thought did not have a fair opportunity in life.

She had become an enthusiastic attender of Community House in Glasgow, where she expounded her strong views regarding her Christian faith which had now become of the utmost importance to her.

She was awarded a job as ­secretary of Christian Aid in the newly-formed Church of Scotland Committee and she continued with her interest in theological studies and ecumenism, especially in writings of Teilhard de Chardin, and formed a study group in Edinburgh on this subject.

She then embarked on a project in India supported by Christian Aid leading others in a girls’ mission school. Her support, guidance, teaching and spiritual values proved beneficial to all who came under her care during that period.

Her next appointment was as secretary of the newly founded Ecumenical Institute for Theological Studies in Jerusalem ­(Tantur) and as a member of the Grail team she spent six years in this developing international organisation, where she was ­involved in many projects working for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians.

This was a very challenging time for Margery and led her to take a diploma in theology on her return to the UK, which she attained in May 1982.

Although approaching her later years, she became the secretary of the Christian Fellowship of Healing, which involved her time, expertise and understanding, opening new vistas and friendships. She became deeply involved in the Iona Community House in Glasgow and with the work at the centres on Mull and Iona, where her spiritual guidance and previous experiences were invaluable to the work of the Community. She had the privilege of becoming a full member of the Community in 2014.

Her work with the Christian Fellowship of Healing in Edinburgh extended over 30 years and she had strong connections with many Christian and spiritual associations, including the World Community for Christian Mediation, the meetings of which she attended regularly. She was a faithful member of the Saltire Society.

She supported foreign students studying theology in this country, she wrote papers and opinions relating to her work and extensive knowledge and maintained a positive and optimistic approach to problems, even into her later years. Margery was always willing to acknowledge her frailties and mistakes and was aware there are questions which can never be answered this side of the grave.

She maintained, however, her firm faith in the trust revealed by Jesus, continuing as a follower of his way and her final illness was borne with much courage and optimism.

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