Memories of Margaret Linforth
from Cathy Backett
My first experience of knowing Margaret was in the immediate aftermath of the sudden death of Barbara Buda in 2018, when the Core Group met to begin the challenging task of trying to decide how to move forward.
Amidst the shock and confusion of that time, Margaret showed her characteristically calm, sensible and steady response, which was to be such a blessing for us all in the turbulent months to come.
This was all the more extraordinary, given that this was her very first introduction to the Core Group. Her decision to stay the course, throughout the long period of disarray, was a major factor in the survival of the Epiphany Group, as the Core Group dwindled to three members. For that I am especially grateful. It could easily have been so different without her perseverance.
Through that stressful time, I came to value Margaret’s gentleness, wisdom and generous attitudes to all. She was someone to turn to with problems and there was always a simple and straightforward answer. She kept a clear head when all about her seemed to be losing theirs.
She unobtrusively attended to practicalities which were in danger of being forgotten, certainly by me. She provided a discreet ballast to the group. I learned to respect her silences. In spite of the lightning way in which she had had to pick up the threads of leadership, her contributions were vital to us from the start, as was her dry sense of humour.
On a more personal note, I valued our shared car journeys, and walks home from meetings learning about her dedicated prison work and her own history. I saw her as a woman of deep faith and resilience. This was borne out in the most moving way, in the conversation we had when she had just been diagnosed with an aggressive cancer and she wanted to hand over a piece of work. The dignity and serenity in the way she broke that news will stay with me for a long time.
We have sadly lost someone who may well be described an unsung hero of the Epiphany Group.
This is the Scripture verse which, for me, is the best epitaph for Margaret.
“In quietness and trust is my strength.“ Isaiah 30.15
Claire Starr, co-ordinator of The Coach House,
recalls her time with Margaret when they were both prison visitors.
Margaret and I both responded to Barbara’s asking if anyone with listening skills would be interested in going into the prison to join Joyce Hellier who had founded a small organisation called HOPE. We would be going into the halls where people were living out their prison sentences to listen, offer support and what practical help we could.
Margaret was always a steady and gentle presence with great wisdom, understanding, insight and a realistic approach to walking alongside people who were in tje criminal justice system.
Margaret used to visit the men and I visited the women, but the times we were there together I remember Margaret’s patient, understanding and pragmatic presence. No one pulled the wool over Margaret’s eyes but she was so kind and gentle but had a very strong core that meant she was able to remain authentically herself.