Lilias Graham: Inaugural Commemoration Service at St Mary’s, Dunblane

On Sunday 13 August 2023, family, friends, colleagues and supporters of Lilias Graham gathered at St Mary’s Episcopal Church, Dunblane in the Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane , with members of local churches and those who continue her work in Glasgow and at Braendam House to commemorate her life and ministry fifteen years after her death on 15 August 2008.

The Rev Nerys Brown, Rector of St Mary’s, writes:

“The event started in the church hall with afternoon tea and an opportunity to learn more about Lilias and share memories.

A film telling the story of  Lilias’ life in photographs was shown (you can watch it below). It starts with images from her childhood on the family farm in Suffolk where she was educated at home. It takes us through her youth to the war years when she served as a cook in the ATS before joining the United Nations Refugee and Relief Agency, working in Egypt and Palestine, in Greece during the civil war, and in refugee camps in Austria. It then jumps to photos of Gorbals in the 1950s and 60s and of 10 Abbotsford Place, the tenement where she chose to live and work as a community worker for the Scottish Episcopal Church for over 20 years supporting families living in terrible housing conditions and great poverty. There are photos of children in cars and buses being taken on trips and holidays to the countryside. This was the beginning of the holiday scheme initiated by Lilias which led to the development of Braendam House near Thornhill as a place where families could come for respite.

Representatives of Glasgow Children’s Holiday Scheme and Lilias Graham Trust (based in Braendam), spoke about the ways they are continuing her work with families struggling to cope with troubled and poverty-stricken circumstances. and a collection was taken for the two charities.

There was also an illustrated talk by the Rector of St Mary’s on the influences which shaped Lilias: her privileged background, the Scottish connection and in particular the example set by both her grandmothers, her mother, and her aunt, Lady Helen Graham. They were all extraordinary women who did a great deal to help those in need.”

At 5 pm, those attending Evening Prayer filed past Lilias’ grave to the church to give thanks for her life and the inspiration she continues to be for those who knew her or have heard her story. The Bishop of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane, the Rt Rev Ian Paton, reflected on Luke 4.14-21 which contains the words inscribed on Lilias’ gravestone: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor’ and urged us to follow her example today rather than wait for tomorrow. The service ended with a prayer that God give us grace to follow Lilias in the way of Christ.

It is intended that a commemoration of Lilias Graham, the date of whose death very appropriately coincides with the feast of St Mary, will be held annually at St Mary’s, Dunblane. The Diocese of St Andrews, Dunkeld and Dunblane commemorates Lilias’ life and ministry on 16 August.

You can download the service booklet here.