SAFFREY MILLER: June 17, 1942 - April 19, 2019
Saffrey Miller had several claims to fame: she worked with the celebrated Bedser cricket twins; once rode with Winston Churchill’s hunt and confronted personal tragedy by raising almost £100,000 for cancer research.
But by far her most enduring commitment was to Contact the Elderly, a cause she embraced as a young mother and supported with ever expanding enthusiasm down the decades.
From her initial interest, hosting small tea parties in her own home, her dedication gradually grew until she had created a hugely-popular annual summer event, encompassing groups from across west central Scotland, and set against the spectacular backdrop of the Trossachs.
It was her natural habitat for she was essentially a people person, in her element in any social situation, a woman who didn’t do small talk but who was genuinely interested in those around her, whatever the age spectrum.
Originally from Redhill in Surrey, she moved to Scotland after marrying her husband David whom she had met on a tennis court in Australia. Formerly an au pair in Germany, she had been working as a secretary Down Under, living in Melbourne and, for a time, opposite the construction site of the great Sydney Opera House in the 1960s. She also spent a brief period as secretary to Alec and Eric Bedser, the identical twin Surrey cricket legends.
Within a year of marriage she was a full-time mother to their first son. Two more boys and a daughter followed. The family lived in Edinburgh during the week and at their home in Kinlochard, near Aberfoyle, at the weekends. It was here that her interest in Contact the Elderly began.
From hosting one group, a request followed to host another group, then an another, until the number of guests outgrew the house and the gatherings moved to Kinlochard Village Hall. More than 40 years later the event is now a highlight of Contact the Elderly’s calendar with upwards of 100 guests and volunteers enjoying afternoon tea at the stunning venue overlooking Loch Ard.
Contact the Elderly volunteer Katy Lamb says Saffrey’s contribution over the years has been immeasurable: “She was very much part of the community here and was just a very caring person. She got involved in lots of things in the village hall – she went to art on Monday, yoga on Tuesday, bridge on Wednesday and on Thursday she was in the choir. Friday was her day off!
Last year she was Chieftain of the highland games in the village and, like everything else, she took it very seriously.
Morna O’May, Contact the Elderly’s head of service in Scotland said: “Saffrey was a wonderful volunteer, always so busy making sure that everyone was fed, watered and happy. She created such a lovely summer tea party for our older guests, a legacy that will continue in Kinlochard every year. The staff, volunteers and guests at Contact the Elderly will always remember her and her dedication to the charity”
The great tragedy of Saffrey’s life was the death of her son Matthew, aged 20. Bereaved but undaunted she began fundraising for research into cancer, holding a series of balls known as Matthew’s Reels in Edinburgh each November. Almost £100,000 was handed over in his name. Meanwhile her dedication to Contact the Elderly never faltered and she remained one of the charity’s longest-serving volunteers.
Saffrey died on the 28th anniversary of Matthew’s death and his survived by her husband David and their three remaining children, Andrew, Simon and Katie and seven grandchildren.