Marjory Bett, who played the piano at church services at Craiginches Prison, Aberdeen, for more than half a century, has died aged 92.
A woman who lived out her deep Christian faith, Marjory saw her work as a mission to the prisoners, many of whom remembered her long after their release.
For more than 50 years she would provide music for the 9.30am prison service before heading to her own church, St Fittick’s, later Torry St Fittick’s.
Her daughter, Marjory Reid, said: “It meant a lot to her that she was able to help prisoners keep their faith up. She was often recognised by former prisoners in the street who would stop and speak.”
When Marjory was made an MBE in the New Year Honours of 1998, prisoners greeted her with a round of applause when they heard the news.
She also gave a lifetime of service to youth organisations and provided holiday cover for the organist at Torry St Fittick’s Church.
Marjory was born in Aberdeen in May 1931 to David Falconer, a woodsawer originally from Portknockie, and his wife, Mary, and grew up with an older sister, Eveline and a younger sister, Dorothy.
She was educated at Walker Road and the Central School before starting work as a clerkess at Andrew Leiper and Sons, fish merchants, who were based in Sinclair Road at that time.
Marjory, known as Madge, spent her entire career with the company and retired in the mid 1990s after nearly 50 years of service.
She started at Sunday School at St Fittick’s aged two and went on to have a lifetime association with the church and its successor, Torry St Fittick’s.
Her daughter said: “She was a leader in the Lifeboys, the junior section of The Boys’ Brigade, became a Brown Owl of the Brownies and was a Sunday School teacher. Faith played a big part in her life.”
Family of talent
Madge came from a musical family. She and her sisters played piano from a young age and together with her father, a fiddler, they enjoyed musical nights at home.
In later life, Madge was the pianist in the Pharos Restaurant Dance Band in Aberdeen.
She was known for her beautiful singing voice and featured in the church choir and was a central part of the casts in many church musicals. Madge also played piano at services and events at Walker Road Primary School.
Her involvement in the prison began in 1950 when St Fittick’s minister, Rev John A Gunn asked Madge to play at a morning service.
Nearly 50 years later, in July 1999 she was honoured for her commitment when Prince Charles presented her with her MBE at a ceremony at Holyrood House, Edinburgh, attended by daughter Marjory and her husband James, and her sister, Dorothy.
Before she moved into Torry care home, Madge played the piano there when the church visited to hold services for residents.
She was also a proud grandmother to Steven and Laura and great-grandmother to Kai
Her funeral service will be held at Torry St Fittick’s Church, Walker Road, on Friday September 15 2023.
You can read the family’s announcement here.