I was so sad to hear of the death of this kind, wonderful lady. We were frequent visitors to Vann and enjoyed the peace and beauty of the garden. I remember Mary Care every Spring. I chatted to her one day whilst she was I her normal position in the garden bored (head down, weeding away) and admired the white forget-me-nots that were everywhere in bloom. She dived off with bag and trowel and so kindly gave me a clump. Despite our move to Devon 10 years ago the daughters of those forget me nots are still going strong so they live up to their name. I often think of this moment with much happiness. Thank you, Mary, for kindness and inspiration.
I shared a [lively! ] flat in Pimlico with Mary in student days -how lucky we were to be able to afford to live so near the Westminster Hospital We remained friends ever since. She came to visit me last year ,bringing Jackie, another student friend ,and bearing a magnificent Aloe plant which is a constant reminder of her. We had a detailed look at Romsey Abbey, where W.D.Caroe designed the North Porch and she was delighted to discover a Caroe latch on the north door. She was brilliant at ensuring that we had regular meetings – there was never a dull moment – she was one of life's enhancers.
Gosh, what to say? Echoing others – for as long as I can remember, Mary has been a wonderfully energetic, fun-loving and extraordinarily kind force of nature, and lynch-pin, in our family. There was always something magical about trips to Vann. As the youngest cousins we as small things had great fun being put to work wrapping moth-balls in pieces of Mary's old tights to tie to the roses to keep deer away. I also have vivid memories of digging through the board games cupboard in the nursery upstairs to discover some novel ancient treasure to rescue and play. Our several visits each year stand out as delightfully bright spots in my memory. One story from more recent years typifies Mary, I think. She was dropping me off at Witley station after another lovely set of shared days, but we discovered rail-replacement buses were in operation, and I'd just missed the most recent one. Wholly unphased, she instructed me to get back in the car and we zoomed off in hot pursuit – overtaking cars on the narrow lanes. Eventually, we spied the bus and Mary accelerated up the hill, overtook and forced it to stop. Success! Only the bemused bus driver informed us we'd been tailing the wrong bus! Meals at Vann were *events* – we'd lay the table (and be corrected if we got it wrong) and be regaled by wonderful stories from the doyenne at the end of the table – often about her travels or work as a police doctor – then, as conversation lulled, Mary's eyes would droop and eventually gentle snoring would ensue, as life continued around her – no wonder, after all her daily efforts in the garden! Hers was a deep and warmly considerate kindness – every time we spoke she would say, 'when will you come and stay?' and she emailed me from hospital apologising warmly for having to cancel a planned visit to Vann for Fran and I (poignantly – he and she were due to meet for the first time at Vann the weekend after she died). Incredibly, she continued to reply to messages even when she knew her life would not last for much longer… It is clear from reading these tributes that Mary has had a beautiful influence on many hundreds of lives…to say that she will be deeply missed does not express it at all – I remember Mary's delight at receiving a letter addressed to 'Lady Mary' – officially a lady or no, Mary, you will always be queen of Vann for us…
While we have been so saddened by the news of Aunt Mary’s passing, we are so grateful for the family and friends communications and pictures. She was truly an accomplished and remarkable woman, full of love, cheer and endless energy. We are also grateful that we were able to recently spend time with her. Her final resting place looks stunning, and we look forward to visiting her again when we can return to the UK. Our thoughts are with all of you, but particularly Rebecca, Oliver, Ruth and Emily. We send all our love.
I am writing on behalf of my father, John McEwan, who was a friend and colleague of Mary's for many years. John is 91 now and suffers from dementia, but remembers Mary well and was greatly saddened to hear the news of her death. As a child I was lucky enough to be taken to visit Mary many times and to explore the extraordinary wonders of the house and gardens. Our best wishes to all the family at this difficult time.
I only knew Mary as the person writing the gracefully straightforward responses to my e-mailed attempts at cheeking my way into gardening work at Vann, but her humanity and simple courtesy left such an impression on me that I feel genuine sadness at the loss of any future chance of working with her.
My parents Tony & Beatle Nation lived in Glebe House, we had two famous visitors, Mary who came to give my mother advice about the garden, and Louis de Berniere (Smart) who fished in our pond and once caught a pike. Once I had German measles and for some reason Mary was the doctor that came to inspect me. I had a rather smart pair of red pyjamas and every time we met afterwards she would say ‘Ah the boy with the red pyjamas!’ Like Mary, my parents are buried in the churchyard in Hambledon and like Mary they both had a starring role in the funeral scene in Howard’s End, their gravestone being much in evidence. A great lady Mary Carole, she will be much missed.
Remembering Mary is not difficult. The joy and pleasure she gave through her wonderful garden, the Summer Concerts and picnics, tennis days, working with her in the Village Shop, her cheerful disposition full of humour and fun and laughter (unforgettable) will be treasured, as will the plants from Vann which I have growing here in the London garden, a wonderful memory. Thank you, Mary, and to her family for this opportunity to offer my gratitude.
When I (Kate) first met Mary it was at Martin's funeral and Chris and I were engaged. I was in awe of her as she is obviously from a completely different world to me. I wasn't very good at speaking as assertively and confidently as she expected, so I used to feel quite awkward, but despite that I could tell how kind and welcoming and accepting she really was underneath her brusque manner. I loved the way she hosted Caroe Garden Parties every year and always hoped we could come, even though we usually couldn't. I loved the way she was a lynch-pin in the family and offered this unconditional open invitation every year and helped us feel part of the dispersed community of the family. We visited when we could and stayed for a few days two or three times, including during the London Olympics. Mary always made us feel completely welcome, I enjoyed helping out a bit in the kitchen and making beds with her, and I particularly got into my stride with her once we had four children and were home educating. I always felt she understood our home ed lifestyle in a way that not many people do – a throwback to a time and society when more people educated children at home using Charlotte Mason principles. She also approved of us having a large family, and when I told her that we were wondering whether I was too old to have more children she impatiently retorted, "How old are you? 36? Well you've got time to have *four* more children if you want to!" She didn't think we were mad like most people did, so I suddenly thought maybe I would really dare to do it – we partly have Mary to thank for Jonathan and Richard being born! Another time we stayed at Vann Mary insisted on digging out an old Silver Cross pram for the baby to sleep in. She went to such trouble to get it out for us and it was really rather idyllic to walk around the gardens with baby in the pram and then put him to rest under the shade of a tree. Later she held and bounced him while encouraging the others to play their instruments for her out on the lawn; she was an exacting and encouraging audience for them! Vann Fest of course was brilliant and Mary was wonderful to host it and to cope with the invasion. When we arrived with our caravan (not really in the spirit of the weekend, which was pretty much all tents) I always thought she was amused and intrigued by it. She had an adventurous spirit and I felt she would be equally at home on holiday in a little caravan as in her huge house! The children remember her for her gurgly jug, her out-of-date spreads at breakfast, being noisy and chatty in the kitchen, the rocking horse and trampoline, us trying to look for her in the garden and eventually coming across her on her hands and knees in a flowerbed, and them making a clay pie and finding it still there on the path the next time we visited! My one regret is that we were away in France one time that Mary was in Yorkshire and asked if she could come to stay with us. I would have really liked to have hosted her at least once. Our last communication with her, apart from when she was in hospital, was at about 11 o'clock one evening in the middle of February when we emailed to ask if we could come to stay for a few days in the Easter holidays. She wrote straight back and was keen for us to come, and we then also made plans for meeting up around Hannah's wedding. We had a fun exchange of emails at a ridiculous hour of the night, ending with "Sounds like the best plans are hatched at night! xx Mary" Of course that visit never happened. We will miss her.
Fifteen years ago I was fortunate in being allocated Mary as my room mate on a trip to Uzbekistan. She was such great company, and made the journey even more memorable with our intrepid shopping trips around the bazaars buying saddlebags, kilims and tent hanging to add to her collection. Here's a picture of her messing about in the slave market in Khiva. The dressing on her thumb is my handiwork – she had cut her thumb badly doing some last minute pruning in the garden at her beloved Vann.
We have wonderful memories of adventures with Mary while staying at Vann. It all started by me meeting Becky at Pembroke College. We shared many similar interests and then came Vann Fest. It was quite incredible and we loved it; camping out under the stars, dancing, rocket launching and many other experiences with so many others, Mary generously allowing a mini invasion of Vann. One thing led to another and we found ourselves sharing part of the South wing as a weekend escape from London. We started to go and would often see Mary in the Garden. She was quite busy, very social and always keen to know what we were up to. We absolutely loved touring the Gardens with her. One year we did a special project and dug some steps at the far end of the Glen. It was hard graft and a big project. Other times, we just enjoyed seeing the greenhouse and discussing the garden plans. We laughed when the gardens were open and people used to ask for tea and cakes through the kitchen windows. Now, I will add Mary made incredible flapjacks. There was always an excitement underway when we saw Mary. One year, William caught a pheasant (by hand) and took it to show her. She politely enquired if he was going to eat it (he put it back in the hedgerow). Another time, there was a disoriented dove on the back lawn. Mary lent us a cage so we duly caught the dove (which turned out to be a racing pigeon), phoned the owner who lived half way across the country (which was a bit far to drive it home). Then there were the frogs, snakes, mice, bats and all sorts of excitements. Nothing phased Mary. If Mary wasn’t having a dinner party herself, she sometimes came to join us for supper and a game of scrabble. We were always swapping and borrowing things. She was a good sport. We remember the Easter egg hunts and one year the infamous water fight. There were so many special times, often quite extraordinary. Thank you to Becky, Ruth, Oliver and Emily for enabling us to share those moments and to get to know your truly incredible Mother. We will cherish the memories.
Pour moi Mary c'est une personne hors du commun . Elle savait tout faire. Mes souvenirs datent de loin, de notre jeunesse puisqu'elle venait à la Grand-Cour chez ma grand-mère. Puis plus tard nous nous sommes vus souvent soit à Saint Germain chez moi ou chez mon frère Adrien , soit à Vann où je suis allée avec mes enfants et deux de mes petits enfants. Lors de notre dernière rencontre chez Nicholas en Janvier elle m' a dit qu'elle avait bien l'intention de rejouer au tennis! Quand je m'occupe de mon jardin, je pense toujours à elle et à tous les conseils qu'elle m 'a donnés. Elle avait organisé pour elle et Rebecca un séjour chez nous en Septembre pour que je lui fasse les honneurs de Versailles et de notre ville.Tu vas beaucoup nous manquer Mary. Nos liens de famille sont lointains mais très forts
I was at school with Becky, and was invited toVann as a young teenager. It was just magical. Martin and Mary generously took me on holiday with the family to Wales a couple of times in my formative years, and always made me feel so welcome. They were amazingly kind and tolerant, and I have returned to Vann for family events and reunions whenever I have been able to. This has been such a privilege. Mary was a very strong yet gentle person, and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to have known her as I grew up. I wish I had told her how important being included and accepted by her has been to me over the years. . Thank you Mary.
We have brought several groups of our clients to visit the gardens at Vann in recent years as part of our garden tours. The wonderful gardens at Vann were a highlight of our tour weeks and meeting Mary and having lunch in the historic barn with her amazing textile collection was truly a memorable experience. Mary regaled us with colourful stories from her travels, family and the development of the gardens, much to the fascination and amusement of our guests. She was ever generous in her sharing of the garden and her knowledge of plants which was extensive. Strolling through the gardens looking for her topiary animals and Caroe latches, many clients commented on the special atmosphere and entirely peaceful oasis that are the gardens at Vann. We are so sorry to hear about Mary – as well as a desperate loss to family and friends, she will be truly missed by the world of horticulture.
We met Mary in Iran and immediately loved her! She was fun and funny. When we got home she sweetly showed us around lovely Vann garden and we returned many times! Her strawberries were just the best ever. They smelt and tasted as strawberries should. When ever you arrived she was always in the garden. Picking broad beans or weeding. Tea in the garden with really gooey flap jacks. Dinner with Mary was always entertaining! She was the most generous, interesting and lovely person. Not scary at all! We shall miss her very much.
We will miss Aunt Mary dreadfully. She was so full of fun and smiles. Her generous, effortless hospitality was legendary in our house, and there were always childrens' cries of "When can we see Great Aunt Mary in Vann?". Whenever we reluctantly pulled ourselves away for the drive home after a visit with full tummies, and tired legs from running or swimming, there were choruses from the back seat of 'When can we go back again?". Mary cared for a house that was a home and a garden that was an oasis. We will miss her, we will miss drinking tea on the lawn and listening to her amusing anecdotes. And we will make good on the promise to look after the cuttings she gave us – our mini 1 foot by 1 foot Vann patch continues to make us smile.
Dear wonderful Caroes, We are really thinking of you, Becky how very hard for you. We are very sorry to hear this news of your marvellous mother who has left such strong and wonderful memories. We remember as students the first time of meeting her at Vann, she had the same look and style as my mother and I instantly realised she is a truly amazing and fascinating person. She always reminded me of my late mother, and indeed years later the two of them met a few times in London and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. So I can imagine as a mother she was a huge force for you all in everything she did. We are sending you much love in the months ahead and we send you love and big (virtual) hugs. Take care and hope to see you again later. Much love from Alexx and Simonxx.
Never have three words run so well together. Mary Caroe formidable. From a young age I have always been slightly in awe. Mary has been an oak in my life. Constant, ever-present, resilient, never noticeably changing. Known but slightly mysterious through her majesty. Lord she had so much more to live. Always generous with Vann from letting me fritter around measuring Vann for an architectural project. To playing tennis on the tennis court…though I never did swim in the lake. To going and slipping into the barn and playing snooker on the full-size table. Lifting the cool, slightly damp velvet cover off its baize. Her form rearing up from some border as you approached. A bundle of weeds and a glove thrust on her hips, "no problem at all help yourself…but how are you?" A few missives shared. Yes I was just at…delete as appropriate ( The Lord Mayor's show, with the Lord Mayor/ Buckingham Palace/ The Bishops Palace)but with Mary it all seemed so normal. Hats, ice skates, bad cars, warmth, energy, always leaving to go somewhere else. Battles with weights and measures and the trading standards at the council with the vegetable stall. Never stopping. Always a metronome set at a faster pace than others. I saw her last at Christmas outside the village shop as part of the village choir gamely singing "Fairytale of New York" with enthusiasm and a smile. Off now to scrawl one more name in her extensive black book of contacts.
I am very sorry to hear about Mary. I still remember meeting her for the first time in Tokyo Japan 2 years ago. She was full of energy and visiting everywhere in Japan by herself. We had a nice chat and visited the Emperor’s palace gardens then had a casual dinner near Tokyo station. Mary was very courageous for coming to Tokyo for the first time and trying different food, taking trains by herself all over town and staying in a small Ryokan in Yotsuya. While dinner, I remember Mary talking about her garden and children (especially Rebecca since I am her friend). Your mother was very proud of you Rebecca for your work etc. I was honored and blessed to have met Mary. She was truly a very active and happy person. I will truly miss her. My condolences and may Mary go on to her next happy journey!
Dear Rebecca, Oliver, Ruth and Emily, We will remember Mary as Oma Mary, honouring her Dutch roots. She would always tell her stories about the Van den Berg family and the rendezvous at the train station. One thing that stands out for us a a memory of Oma Mary is that she would always leave one or two stroopwafels or Haagse hopjes in the pack, so she would never finish them. We would then find those much past use-by-date treats somewhere in the cupboard in the Kitchen when we would visit again after two or three years, obviously bringing new stash. It was wonderful to see Mary in Melbourne and have a cup of tea with her on city square after she visited the St. Paul's Cathedral of Melbourne. We hope we will be able to celebrate Mary's life with you at Vann at some stage. Lots of love, Bert, Heleen, Iceman and Wietse