Dr Trevor May
Trevor May very sadly passed away on 27th August 2021. He was a much loved friend of Tetcott Church and as well as being a lay reader frequently taking services he was a much valued member of Tetcott PCC. writing 'A Brief Guide to the History of Tetcott Church'. Below is a tribute written by Kay Napier which featured in the October Benefice Bulletin.
Dr. Trevor May
Many of us will know and remember Trevor as a fantastic reader or minister, always engaging with an interesting tale to tell, or as a wonderful listener, always willing to lend an ear to anyone. But from listening to tributes, reading obituaries, sharing memories – it seems almost magical that we are all talking about the same one person.
From reading his daughter Ashley’s contribution of Trevor’s obituary in The Guardian, I personally learned that he wrote a book entitled “An Economic and Social History of Britain 1760-1970” – I remember vast swathes of those books sitting on the side in my secondary school history classroom, and never realised that was “our Trevor”. As I hear more about his life, “our Trevor” never ceases to amaze.
He was a very educated man, receiving a degree in Economics from Slough College of Further Education, received a postgraduate diploma in Education with the University of London and undertook an MPhil with the University of London, and later a PhD with the University of London. He used his education to lecture at Hatfield Polytechnic, he taught British and American History for a year at Mesa College, San Diego and also for the Open University upon his ‘retirement’. He went on to write much more – both published professionally and locally, including ‘The History of the London Horse Cab’ (which was researched as part of his PhD), the history of both Ashwater and Tetcott churches and several locally-printed books reflecting on his and his family’s life, and his involvement and experiences in India. His final published book was ‘Smugglers and Smuggling’ (published in 2014.) As a result of this, he appeared on the TV programme “Coastal Railways with Julie Walters” – a ‘screengrab’ of this is used on the front of this bulletin.
Trevor met his wife Jennifer at a church youth group and they married in 1964. Jennifer remained by his side until her death in 2003, shortly after moving to Ashwater. In Trevor’s own words, (from his publication “Manchi Karpare – With the Good Shepherd in India”) “Many people saw Jennifer’s death as a great tragedy […] I saw it differently. […] She wanted her own land, so that she could see her horses from her window; she wanted a manége where she could school them; and she wanted to have a harvest. Each of these dreams she achieved in her short time in Ashwater. What I find tragic is when people never achieve their dreams; or, even worse, when they have no dreams at all.” I defy you all to hear Trevor saying these words when you read them.
I mentioned India previously, but it is worth more than a fleeting comment. In 1999 he joined a mission to India which made a huge impact. He would visit India 10 times between 1998 and 2020. We are all aware of his love of India and of his “Indian Family” – during the Covid-19 pandemic, kind people of our Benefice donated additional funds to them to help them in their time of need. We pray for them, and they pray for us. In his time there, he built up the Christian church, and his close friendship with Rev John is well known.
When he moved to Devon, he sold some of his belongings he did not need to take with him and donated the proceeds to the churches he worked with in India. But he gave more than his money. He lived prayerfully among them. He gave them his time, his energy, his wisdom, his companionship and his love.
Trevor himself said that when he first visited India that it was the first time in his life that he felt filled with the Holy Spirit. In his book Manchi Karpare, Trevor writes that, once, God spoke to him through a litter bin – he had “been feeling that [I] wanted to serve the Lord in a greater way, but there was so much that was wrong with me, that I had no hope of serving him until I had cleared out all the rubbish in my heart and in my life. That was not going to happen. However, on a walk one afternoon in Secunderabad, while these thoughts were in my mind, I happened to pass a public litter bin. On it were painted the words, ‘USE ME.’ This became my prayer. God did not expect me to become perfect before he could use me to further his kingdom. He would take me as I was, rubbish and all, and in time would help to get rid of some of the trash.”
Some of his “Indian Family” paid tribute to Trevor via videos, shown at his funeral. It was humbling to hear how highly they regarded him, his “love for other people, love for his God” his “ability to help those in need”. They loved being his family, they loved him and he loved them.
Now the bit that we might know a little better. Trevor moved to Ashwater in 2003. He formed an art group with, among others, Tim and Sue Luxton – their wonderful tributes to Trevor at his funeral showed Trevor’s creative side; creating paintings and silk screen printing, making sculptures and generally enjoying each other’s company and shared passion.
Tim went on to tell us of a trip to Iona they shared. He reflected on Trevor’s “amazing ability to instantly make everyone relax and feel at home”, and their creation of Haiku poems which was encouraged during their time away – Trevor himself wrote:
Life is a puzzle
With many pieces missing
But some found later
Lasting words of Trevor to ponder on.
The last section of Tim Luxton’s tribute at the funeral service featured the following prayer which sums up Trevor, his life, his experience in India, his adventure:
Lord, I ask only this
That you would meet me on the road
And that I, expectant,
Would recognise and know you in your coming
And so find my life transformed
Trevor’s death is being felt across the country and indeed the world (as was shown during the tribute from his Indian Family). He would, on occasion, visit Halwill and Ashwater primary schools – the latter of which he was at, one time, a governor.
One of Ashwater’s teachers, Rosie Cawsey called him “the best Father Christmas I’ve known” – if you never knew Trevor as Father Christmas, it’s worth imagining! She also went on to say “he spent time talking to each child and told them stories about countries of the world – the children were always spellbound.”
On the day of Trevor’s funeral, memories and prayers were said and candles lit at St Peter & St Paul in Wingrave, Buckinghamshire – Trevor’s previous parish where he served as churchwarden. Wherever he went, he was loved.
Despite ailing health, Trevor was always keen, enthusiastic and able, and preached until a couple of months before he passed away peacefully. During the pandemic when we were unable to attend church in person, Revd Stephen set up Zoom services which Trevor was keen to attend. Once things started ‘opening up’ again, he was enthusiastic about continuing these services, learning the technology, in order to bring services to a wider audience. He was a man who would not let something beat him.
Trevor’s service was at noon on 16th September, in Ashwater Parish Church. We sung the hymns “Love divine, all loves excelling” and “O Love, that wilt not let me go”. The reading, John 3: 1-3 was read by Jane Lucas, our vicar who retired in 2019 (and Trevor wrote her ‘eulogy’ for the service on Ashwater Village Green.) His love of music was reflected in his processional music of ‘Lord you’ve been good to me’ and ‘Miles from Nowhere’ by Cat Stevens as a song we could reflect on our memories of Trevor. Revd. Stephen Skinner led the service, and the prayers of thanksgiving were delivered by Jim Williams, his colleague, good friend and ‘running mate’ – it was mentioned during the service that Trevor would come to preach with a couple of scraps of paper, whereas Jim would arrive armed with a structured set of notes. They truly were two halves of a brilliant whole at the heart of our benefice. And although we have lost one half, we are truly blessed to still have the other.
Following the service, Trevor was interred in the churchyard at Ashwater, a place where he had worshipped, preached and made home for almost 20 years.
Upon hearing of Trevor’s death, personally, I was numb – I could not comprehend that someone so caring, jolly and full of life could just ‘stop’. Maybe that is the point; he has made such a profound impact on so many that his memory will live with all of us for a long time to come.
In whatever walk of life we met him, however we knew him, as minister, colleague, neighbour, friend – he will be sorely missed.
God bless you, Trevor.
Kay Napier, Benefice Bulletin Editor