Tributes to ‘kind hearted’ West Hill woman Betty Williams

West Hill resident Betty Williams made national headlines with her idea to hold a Christmas lunch fo

West Hill resident Betty Williams made national headlines with her idea to hold a Christmas lunch for those who are lonely at Christmas time. - Credit: Archant

The 87-year-old attracted worldwide attention with her generous offer to take 40 strangers to lunch, who otherwise would have been alone at Christmas.

Betty Williams joins the guests at her Christmas lunch she paid for at the Lamb and Flag in Ottery S

Betty Williams joins the guests at her Christmas lunch she paid for at the Lamb and Flag in Ottery St Mary. Ref sho 4459-52-14AW. Picture: Alex Walton - Credit: Archant

Tributes have been paid to a ‘kindhearted’ West Hill woman whose generosity attracted attention from across the world.

Betty Williams made national headlines in 2014 with her generous offer to take to lunch 40 strangers – who would otherwise be alone at Christmas.

The event carried on for three years after receiving donations from across the world to keep the festive meal going.

Sadly, Betty, 87, died at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital on Wednesday, March 8.


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This week, mayor Glyn Dobson, who helped Betty to organise the Christmas meal, said: “ I think everyone is grateful for what she did. Even at that first meal, we had two or three thousand donated, but she still insisted on paying for it.”

The donations also funded two further meals for Ottery residents to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee and 90th birthday.

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A retired teacher, Betty grew up in Derbyshire and was the first pupil from Brincliffe Grammar School to gain a place at Oxford University.

After graduating, she began a long career in teaching, working in France, Chesterfield and Luton.

A friend, Robert Neal, said while working in Luton, Betty rediscovered an old Oxford friend, Terry Williams, whom she married in 1966. The couple retired to West Hill in 1987, and she became a trustee of Ottery Heritage Society. Her husband Terry died in 2003.

The widow was an accomplished poet, writing several poetry books, as well as prose to the Queen to mark landmark occasions in the sovereign’s reign.

Mr Neal said: “Betty had an inquisitive mind and loved to travel. Her many interests included music, especially opera, literature in English, French, Italian and German, and the romantic poets.

“She held a particular fascination for churches, with their windows and monumental brasses.

“She will be sadly missed by all who knew her.”

A funeral service will be held at West Hill Parish Church on Wednesday, March 29, at midday.

Donations can be made to Great Ormond Street Hospital by retiring collection in lieu of flowers or c/o F J Luxton & Son, Funeral Directors.

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