28 September 2021, The Tablet

Ann Hamilton (1931 - 2021)

Ann Hamilton (1931 - 2021)

The simplest of lives sometimes leaves the greatest impression. 

Ann Hamilton, who died peacefully on 1 September, aged 90, had lived quietly alone in Rye since arriving there in the mid-1970s. An outpouring of affection has followed the news of her death. 

“Ann always saw and looked for the best in people and was always very quick to listen, giving her time and energy without reservation,” Simon South, a permanent deacon who lives in Rye, remembered. “One of the things that was so inspirational about her was her complete dedication to  actively living the Gospels in her day to day life.”

As a girl she had lived in Oxford with her mother and attended Mass at Blackfriars. She read English at St Anne’s, where she was tutored by both C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkein. She then studied Archaeology at Cambridge, and as a young  woman in the early 1950s, went on digs in Syria and the Jordan. She joined the Foreign Office, serving in the Ministry of Defence; including a tour of duty on secondment to the British High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria, during the Biafran War. She became godmother to the daughter of a British diplomat. When the child was two years old, her mother died of cancer, and Hamilton gave up her career to help look after her and her brother for four years – taking a close interest in their lives for the rest of hers. It was a striking example of how she put the interests of those in need before her own.

She moved to Rye in the mid-70s, where she fully immersed herself in the life of the parish of St Anthony of Padua and the broader community. She noticed that the vicar of Rye was saying daily evensong in the parish church by himself, so she decided to join him. She became a devoted member of Churches Together in Rye, which she continued to support in various ways right up to the end of her life. She ran a Christian bookshop in Lion Street, which became a great supporter of Traidcraft goods and a favourite pit stop for locals. 

She led Lectio Divina sessions and attended ecumenical Julian Meetings of right up to her death. In 2010 she was awarded the Benemerenti Medal papal medal by Pope Benedict XVI in recognition of her long and exceptional service to the parish. It was presented by Bishop Kieran Conry at a Mass held in the church of St Anthony. 

Her voluntary work including helping the elderly, the handicapped and alcoholics. She was a volunteer for CAFOD and Traidcraft, who she helped lead the move for Rye to become a Fairtrade Town. Well into her eighties, she could be still found joining marches for climate justice, for which she was an early and persistent advocate and practitioner. She was appointed a Justice of the Peace for East Sussex in 1986 and served for eight years.

Ann took her final vows as a member of the Dominican Secular Institute of Orleans in 1990 but was soon called upon to be International Moderator of the Institute. In her late seventies and eighties, she was still travelling to France, Africa and Haiti visiting and supporting local Institute members. She was full of fun, charming, very ‘English’, witty and a great conversationalist, but an even better listener,” said her friend and fellow lay Dominican Janet Wiltshire. 

“Ann would always stop and speak, or spend time with those who were lost, lonely or in need. Ann had the most wonderful and innocent laugh. For her, Christianity was built on the ‘good news’ and should be celebrated with joy and hope. She led a very ascetic lifestyle and was never extravagant or self indulgent, always putting the needs and thoughts of others ahead of her own and encouraging others to do the same,” Simon South remembered. 

On leaving one of the numerous prayer meetings she ran and attended, she was mugged and had her brief case stolen. The police were duly called and she provided a list of its contents. After a brief pause, she added, “Oh, and also The Tablet,” prompting the young officer to ask, “Which make of tablet was that madam?” to which she replied, “Oh, no, The Tablet, the Catholic newspaper.”

Ann Hamilton lived simply and well; it was a life of prayer, friendship, service and joy. 

Compiled with the help of Justin Kirby.




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