Local Face: Mike and Marguerite Spain

  |  Published: Feb 1st 2008

arguerite Cowley was born on the Isle of Wight in 1939. After family moves to Hitchin, Colchester and Worcester, she spent her final years of school at Holy Trinity School in Kidderminster. She qualified as a state registered nurse at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. In 1962 she married Chris Farbrother in Worcester. Chris worked for the Ministry of Defence and they moved several times including tours in Cyprus and Germany. They were blessed with three children; Lorna, Crispin and Sean. Finally they arrived in High Wycombe. Chris worked at Strike Command Headquarters and Marguerite was Clinical Nurse Specialist Stoma Care for South Bucks. Chris died of cancer in June 1995.


In November 1997 she met with Fr. John Beirne; her parish priest in High Wycombe during her husband’s illness and death and who had subsequently moved to Little Chalfont. He was planning a meeting for the Society of St Vincent de Paul (SVP) on the subject of Spiritual Impoverishment. Marguerite volunteered to talk on the subject. Fortunately there is a limited amount of material poverty in this area but spiritual impoverishment can result from the loss of parent, spouse, child, job, home, health etc. The talk took place in February 1998. She expected a small group but ended up facing well over fifty people. Mike was among them.


Mike Spain was born in Canterbury in 1936.He was educated at Kent College, then did two years National Service in the Royal Artillery mostly in Scotland having volunteered for overseas service, He read economics at Manchester University. He worked firstly as a sales representative. In 1960 he married Collette Connolly who was working as a senior midwifery sister at a Manchester teaching hospital. He embarked on a career in finance with major international companies having occasional excursions into general management. On the way he qualified as a Chartered Management Accountant. They were blessed with four sons; Nicholas, Patrick, Michael and David. In 1972 after many moves around the British Isles they arrived in Buckinghamshire living first in Gerrards Cross then afterwards in Aston Clinton. Mike’s last job was in London in charge of the finances of one of the four Inns of Court, a society of barristers. He is a Freeman of the City of London. In 1983 his eldest son was killed in a traffic accident on the Missenden by-pass. In 1993 his wife underwent major surgery for ovarian cancer; after which they moved down into Wendover. Collette died in September 1995.


In early February 1998 Mike was invited by the President of his local conference of SVP at St Anne’s to accompany him to a meeting in Little Chalfont on the following Sunday afternoon. His heart was really set on a sofa, a bottle of red wine and the newspapers but he agreed to go. Marguerite spoke very movingly as to how the loss of her husband had changed her life. At the end of her talk Father John asked for questions. Nobody spoke. So Mike stood up and said that his wife had died also of cancer at much the same time and that the last thing he could do was to stand up in public and share his grief and that he thought she was very brave.


They met in the gathering after the meeting and with some hesitation on both sides they exchanged telephone numbers. They met again in neutral territory; this time in Saunderton at the Rose and Crown on the following Friday 13th; auspicious but not quite St Valentine’s Day! Conversation came easy with such a lot of life history to share. Mike then said he was very busy (true then as it is today) and was not sure when they could meet up again but eventually they did get together on a regular basis.


Dating is never easy and certainly it is a novel experience after over thirty years of marriage but they came to realise that love second time round is not only possible but really rather good. There were little rites of passage along the way leading to greater commitment; for example, for a first trip to Europe he put Marguerite’s name on the insurance of his old Volvo estate; she felt obliged to reciprocate but with some difficulty as this was the partial surrender of her sporty Honda! After three years of to-ing and fro-ing between High Wycombe and Wendover, Mike retired and they married at St Anne’s Church in April 2001. Shortly afterwards they bought a house together on the corner of Haglis Drive in Wendover.

Life together has been good. Apart from doubling the size of their families which keeps them busy enough they are active in the Wendover community. Marguerite is President of St Anne’s SVP Conference. She is a founder member, trustee and secretary of the UK registered charity Uganda Orphans Bega kwa Bega. Mike has been a governor at Halton School for six years, is currently Chairman of Wendover Twinning Association and Treasurer of Uganda Orphans Bega kwa Bega. They are both members of U3A, The Wendover Society and The Wendover Arm Trust. Both do rather a lot for St Anne’s and Churches Together in Wendover. Mike is leading the steering group charged with the search for funding to replace the facilities lost through the recent closure of St Anne’s Hall. They say their garden is showing neglect but they still manage to take some exercise and to travel a fair bit.


Their professed exit strategy from all this activity is to move away from Wendover but they are content to stay. There are far worse places and how could they leave all their friends!

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