A tribute to Lady Mary Holborow
Following the sad news of the passing of Lady Mary Holborow, our former Trustee, Sir Tim Smit has written this tribute:
Lady Mary Holborow DCVO, Mary to all who knew her, was quite simply one of the most marvellous people I have ever known. She had a gift given to few, which was to put everyone around her at their ease and treat everyone as equal without reference to anything save their character.
We first came to know her in the early days of the Eden Project and she agreed to champion the cause and invited us to lunch to meet the managing director of South West Water where, for an hour, she barraged him with our virtues and convinced him that it was in his interests to join the gang. When some months later they supported us it was an epic moment. It would transform our future and lay the foundations for the Eden Project you see today.
Everyone in Cornwall has a Lady Mary story because she, and her marvellous husband, Geoffrey, loved the County and the people who made it. As Lord Lieutenant she was tireless and made everyone who came into her orbit feel special. More importantly, in a County blessed with so many people of strong opinion, she had the remarkable ability of making each of us feel as if she expected better of us than self interest or narrow concerns. She made people consider carefully and act with respect. In short, she created a climate for conversation that was filled with the potential for positive outcomes.
We became close friends and after she retired she kindly agreed to become an Eden Trustee and, after our painful year in 2012, hosted a series of breakfasts in which we reintegrated ourselves into the Cornish family and listened to the advice of our friends across the County. This would transform us and see Eden rise again and this time as part of Team Cornwall.
At the same time she decided that we should have an annual garden party to celebrate those friendships and introduce our long-standing friends to new ones. Two weeks ago we hosted this year's Lady Mary Garden Party and we knew she was unwell and that we would probably not see her again. In my whole life I have never known anyone who was held in such genuine and wide affection and on that evening, she was in everyone's thoughts.
When I was made an honorary Knight I was given the choice of going to London or, in exceptional circumstances, receiving it at Eden from the Lord Lieutenant. I didn't hesitate. As we stood smiling facing each other in the Core building among my colleagues and the people I love, she read the citation and then, all official business over, we hugged and it felt like the best of times.
There will be many words written about this extraordinary person and they will all attest to her qualities as leader, mentor, wife, mother, granny or friend.
Our hearts go out to her family and that is as it should be. For the rest of us there will remain memories of her smiling face, her ready laugh, her profound sense of the ridiculous and dislike of pomposity. I'm sure I speak for many when I say there is now a Mary-shaped hole in our lives, but we all inherit from her the knowledge that we can sometimes touch the better side of ourselves. That is a great gift for which we should be deeply grateful.