Olive Newman (née Wright, YG 1947)
16 January 2024
Old Scholars will be saddened to hear of the death of Olive Marion Newman (née Wright, YG 1947) in October 2023 at the age of 92. Olive was at Friends’ between 1942 and 1947. The following account of Olive’s life is adapted from the testimony read at her funeral by her son, Howard Newman (YG 1976).

Olive was born on 2nd April 1931 to parents, Percy and Edith, who lived on Radwinter Road in Saffron Walden. She was educated at the Old Priory, South Road and Friends’ School. She matriculated from Friends’ at 16 with eight credits and one distinction. Although she was recommended to stay on for further education, Olive wanted to work and so took up a post with the old Saffron Walden Borough Council as the Town Clerk’s Junior Clerk, dealing with the registers. She enjoyed the work and amongst her good colleagues was Pat Fisher (YG 1947) with whom she had been friends since the age of five, been to school together and remained friends throughout her life through their work at the Council Offices and at Abbey Lane Church.

It was through the church that Olive met her future husband Norman Brian Newman. Brian and Olive married at Abbey Lane Church on 19th November 1955. Together they worked hard to raise their family and also run the long-established business A. James Jewellers Ltd where they were joint directors with Leonard and Mary Pitstow. Brian and Olive eventually took over the whole enterprise in the 1970s and the business continues to flourish today under the directorships of their son's Howard and Graham.

Olive’s life was intertwined with Abbey Lane Church. Not only did she marry her husband there, but her parents married there in 1918 and she sang alto in the choir, and also wrote hymns. She and her sister Ena were involved in the great winter fairs to raise money for the church where both of their houses would be full of goods to be sold: chutneys, pickles, cakes and buns all hand-made. The sisters together threw themselves into the work and social activities of the church, as well as understanding its history and people. Olive’s interest in preserving and understanding history led to her campaigning to retain the pews of the Abbey Lane Church during periods of restoration (the cast iron drip troughs and brass umbrella racks remain because of her desire to preserve the church).

Olive and Ena were not only lifelong and very active members of the Abbey Lane Church community, but also of Saffron Walden. Olive was a member of the badminton club where she played into her 80s and the Grove Lawn Tennis Club where she won many cups and trophies. She was involved in the Museum Society, Historical Society, Gibson Library and the Countryside Association. Not only this but she was a campaigner, often writing to her MP, the council or indeed Radio 4’s Today Programme (on their poor use of the English language). She volunteered with International Help for Children, and Howard fondly remembers a young Italian boy named Marco staying for holidays as a result of this work.

In 2008, for his voluntary and community work, Brian was awarded an MBE in the New Year’s Honours list presented by the future King Charles III at Buckingham Palace. Brian always said the award was for Olive as well.

Not only a historian of the church Olive also chronicled her family history, wrote hymns, poetry and created quizzes. She traced family back to the 17th Century. Her side had nearly always lived in the Saffron Walden area. Howard sent me a copy of a collection of Olive’s poetry. Her poems were published variously since 1972, always under the title “Outcrop”. The sales raised funds for the church, including the last production in 2012, “Outcrop XL”, a collection of 40 poems and hymns. Her love of poetry, family and history came together in the poem “Family Circles”, reproduced below. In the second poem here, “Petrified”, Olive grapples with enormity of nature and, despite the smallness of human history, a fact of which she seemed to be acutely aware, the duty of humanity to be watchful of what we leave behind.
Quick Links
Social Media
InTouch-Online (v supplied by InTouch Software