Great Women: Vivienne Scott MBE

Vivienne Scott MBE (1904 – 96) was chosen by St Anne’s Cathedral as their submission for the Great Place: Great Women campaign due to her selfless charitable work. The following is taken from her Memorial Service Address, which was conducted by the Right Reverend S. G. Poyntz on Sunday 12th January 1997. 

It was appropriate that Vivienne Scott’s remains should repose on St. Stephen’s Day awaiting burial because her life, too, had been a remarkable witness in self-devoted and loyal service to her Lord and the Church. In 1931, she felt the call to join the Commissioned Workers Society (CWS) and was attached to the Cathedral Mission (Mariner’s District) in Belfast. Seven years later she went to India joining the Dublin University Mission to Chato Nagpur, where she worked for six years. There she learned to speak Hindi fluently and later in life used her Hindi Bible in private devotions. Returning to Ireland in 1944 she worked for a period in Tipperary before moving back to Belfast. Subsequently, she served in St Patrick’s Parish Ballymaccarett (1946-8) and St. Mary’s Parish Crumlin Rd (1948-56). In 1965 she was appointed to the staff of St. Anne’s Cathedral where she remained until her retirement in 1991 at eighty-seven years of age.

Vivienne had a patrician appearance and a dignity in spite of her extremely spartan, perhaps eccentric way of life. For many years her sole means of transport was a bicycle: later she progressed to a car. People will recall her flying up and down the Crumlin Road on her bicycle festooned with jampots tied with string to her person and the bicycle. I understand she got a half-penny per pot. This was a dangerous activity as well as illegal, but the police turned a blind eye to it. Others will recall her on the bicycle with the umbrella up, cycling along in pouring rain.

Her nephew, Mr Richard Scott, has told me of a Christmas many years ago leaving plenty of firewood at her home in Sandholes near Cookstown – nicely cut log, turf, coal together with sticks to light the fire. There has been a heavy fall of snow and he called to see her after her arrival from Belfast. Getting no response to his knock on the door he looked around to be greeted by a ‘Ho Ho Ho’ from Vivienne emerging from a nearby wood wearing a big coat and carrying a sackful of sticks on her back. When asked what was wrong with the logs and turf left for her, she replied. ‘Oh, my dear that’s too good for me to use. I will bring them back to my old, poor and needy friends in Belfast’.

Others will recall her tireless work for this Cathedral – the building, its parishioners and those for whom this Cathedral has a ministry. She raised thousands of pounds. Some have put it at £30,000. At one time, it was as much as £500 per month visiting shops, bingo halls, pubs, cinemas and theatre queue and other places with collecting boxes. She used to say, ‘If people can go out and spend money and enjoy themselves then they can give something towards our beautiful cathedral.’ She collected personally tons and tons of waste paper in aid of the building fund. Her entrepreneurial skills were always at work thinking up ideas to raise funds for good causes at home and abroad – as in her ‘travelling basket’ a sort of mini bring and buy on wheels, her sale of snowdrops or collection of used stamps which enabled her to harness the enthusiasm of Cathedral choristers. Earlier she assisted the Dean in the annual Christmas sit-out. So, it came as no surprise, but with great pleasure to many of her friends when in 1978 she was awarded the MBE. I understand that, when she was making the presentation, the Queen as usual had done her homework meticulously and to Vivienne’s delight, reminded her that her father King George VI had made Vivienne’s Uncle, Canon Creed Meredith, when Vicar of Windsor, one of this Chaplains. It was a nice touch and much appreciated by Vivienne. Others will testify to her work among the very young, especially in Sunday Schools. It was appropriate that one of her prodigies the Rev. Shane Forster, Curate-Assistant of Drumglass Dungannon, whom she had taught as a chorister should minister to her in the closing months of her earthly life and give the Address at her funeral.

She was a great encourager and motivator. From time to time, I drove her back to her little home in Tigers Bay. On such occasions I found her to be an inspiration. Encouragement oils the wheels of ministry. Bishops, too, can be lifted by a word of encouragement.

The third day of Christmas is St. John’s Day when the Church remembers the beloved disciple, the son of Zebedee, one of the early disciples called by Jesus. How appropriate that Vivienne’s body should be laid to rest on St. John’s Day. Her mortal remains were carried down the aisle of Ardtrea Church, the Nunc Dimittis was recited and then out into a bright December setting sun which shone upon her coffin. That shaft of light was not on cheered those loved ones and friends who had come to pay their respects, it also spoke of the Light of Christ which we believe our departed sister now enjoys. We leave her in Christ’s care in the sure and certain hope that God will grant her eternal rest and that the Light of Christ shines on her.

Members Involved

YEAR: 1899

Location: Donegall Street

YEAR: 1868

Location: Crumlin Road