Lin’s Remarkable Life

by Tolly (Iain Tolhurst)
Lin’s entry to the world was a dramatic one. A Scillonian, she was born on a tiny open boat between Tresco and St Mary’s in October 1953. Her father and the boatman were just about to leave the quay when fortunately, the Island nurse  managed to turn up in time to leave for the Hospital on St Mary’s. In those days the three-mile trip from the tiny Tresco to the main island was over half an hour of often rough and turbulent waters. Luckily on this day it was relatively calm but Lin’s Mum Gloria who had been on Tresco her whole life wasn’t able to wait, and Linda Frances Lawry was born on the floor of the open boat half way across the sea. The event was subsequently covered by the national “Women’s Realm” complete with a lovely picture of her with Mum and sister Lottie. In the background was Naida, the birth boat.
Lin’s childhood on the island was idyllic, beaches and sea and space to run free with dens in the woods was what it was all about. A close-knit community of 180 people, the island was safe and sheltered from the outside world of strife and discord. Her Father, a mason and Mother, a mum with three daughters – the family was a very traditional one. Lin had cousins, uncles and aunties and quite a family there. Grandad Tom lived with them in a tiny stone cottage on top of the hill. In winter the windows would rattle as the Atlantic storms rattled through. The islands tiny school had just two classes for ages 5 to 15 after that the children had to leave for the mainland for any further education. When Lin was 12, a brand new comprehensive school was opened on St Marys, which meant that the older children from the “off islands” (there are 5 inhabited islands within the archipelago) could board for a week at the school. She loved the weekly trips back and forth to the Big school. In winter the weather could be appallingly bad, the open boat would be swapped for a covered one to provide some shelter for the bumpy ride back home. Life on St Marys offered some welcome cultural exchange from tiny Tresco with new places to go and more people to meet and hang out with.
At 16 Lin left the islands for education on the Mainland at Falmouth to study business practice. Not something she was especially keen to study, but family expectations were not especially ambitious and for a teenager from Scilly any chance to get away to the mainland was worth taking. It was at college that I met Lin within the first week of arriving there. I was 17 and had taken an apprenticeship as a ships joiner. A year at college to me seemed like a good way to pass some time and try to sort out what to do with myself. We had a great time in Falmouth for a year, but both hated the institutionalised college life and jacked in our courses before the end. We then spent a couple of years back on Tresco, both working at different odd jobs on the island. I loved it there. We married at 19 on the Island and I know that people thought it would never last, we were too young and a bit wild. Eventually we found ourselves back on the Mainland several years later our first of three children were born, Lin was just 20.
As a mother, Lin excelled in every aspect of it. She had exceptional qualities and this was just one of them. My lovely children who are very close to us physically and emotionally are testament to her skills as a mother. Lin was every bit a wonderful person able to cope with the day to day as well as the bigger picture of life. An ability to take what life brought to her with a casual but determined attitude. Probably one of the most modest and unassuming people you are ever likely to have met, she tended to stay in the background and her natural shyness kept her in the shadows for much of her life. She offered me her unfailing and dedicated support in our passion for organic food and lifestyle. We built a farm, children, houses, grew loads of food and had so many little adventures together all of which revolved around our family. Times were often wickedly hard and tough; never did she complain or want for a different life. Total dedication in all she did and believed in and in time she became a very skilled plant raiser and grower able to nurture and cultivate anything that needed to be done. Adaptable to any situation, whether it be turn out a couple of thousand squash plants to perfection, or feed a group of visiting farmers, Lin just got on and did it without fuss or drama. Lin loved the wealth of parties that revolved around the farm and family, always on the dance floor she would dance the night away. For such a tiny stature, she was less than 5 feet, Lin had an enormous spirit and quiet presence. All who met her even if briefly would have had a lasting picture of her in their mind.
Life at Hardwick suited her, the estate is the same size as her native Tresco with a similar number of people and an island feel to it. The River Thames gave her that essential connection to the sea that she needed so much. She adored the Walled Garden and its wealth of flowers and diversity much of which she cultured. Her space was the greenhouse, where annually she raised over 60,000 transplants, her babies, all of them perfect. The list of things that Lin dealt with on the farm is endless, she just got on with things. It is over a quarter of a century ago that Lin and I moved apart. Not far, I moved into the shed at the top of the garden and have been there ever since. Lin welcomed and encouraged Tamara into my life almost 20 years ago, made her feel at home and supported her in the new life here with me. She did this unselfishly and with grace, dignity and that unique style of hers. We have continued to support each other and share the running of the farm and had become as close as we ever were, a unique situation based on trust and a huge respect for all involved. I have been truly blessed to have had this wonderful relationship.
The untimely and sudden loss of Lin has left us all in deep shock and sadness. To fill the space she has left will take some time and space. Her legacy lives on all around us here at Hardwick and we will in time continue with the spirit that Lin instilled here to ensure that her memory never dies. It was fitting that Lin should leave this Earth in such a dramatic way, like her birth, born outside and died outside in the place that she loved on the soil she nurtured. I was with her as the light in her life blew out so instantly, without pain or fear, she just left.
Without Lin’s input to life at Hardwick we would probably not be here and the world would be a poorer place without the presence of the farm we have and what we can offer to all who tread a path to experience life on the land here.
We are to have a proper party at Hardwick next year, a true celebration of Lin’s remarkable life and we know that many of you will wish to join us in that event.
Lin’s ashes are to be taken to Tresco next year, we will spread them onto the sea where she was born to complete the circle of her life. Back to her spiritual home, the place she felt most at ease and loved so much.

5 replies
  1. susan hammersley
    susan hammersley says:

    what a moving tribute Tolly. Beautifully composed. Thank you for sharing her and your history.I only met Lin briefly on a couple of occasions but I feel I know her so much more now. Yes I’m sure her spirit and wisdom will guide the farm through the next painful phase, but accompanied by Lin’s determination you will succeed.
    With sympathy

    susan hammersley

  2. Sally Hicks
    Sally Hicks says:

    Thanks Tolly I really enjoyed hearing Lin’s story. Growing up in Cornwall and having spent time on the Scilly isles I know how treacherous the sea can be , they were so lucky in 1953 going to St Marys ! Lin was special I am so lucky to have got to know her over the years.

  3. Sam Settle
    Sam Settle says:

    I was lucky to have worked with Lin for a couple of years at the Hardwick estate. She forms part of some great memories for me there. I had huge respect for her tenacity and green fingers. It’s a lovely piece you’ve written Tolly.


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