The Queen has personally thanked community stalwarts for their work to “enrich the life” of their neighbours in a letter honouring Maundy money recipients.

The monarch has written to those she would have presented with symbolic coins during the annual Royal Maundy service, but who instead have received the gift by post after the event was cancelled for the second year due to coronavirus restrictions.

The tradition of presenting alms on Maundy Thursday goes back to at least the 4th century, and in this country the first record of the monarch doing so is in 1213. Early in her reign, the Queen decided Maundy money should not just be distributed to the people of London, and so she now travels to various cathedrals or abbeys to give gifts to local people. For our diocese, 2013 was the special year, when Oxford’s Christ Church Cathedral was selected.

The number of recipients changes every year, and this year there will be 95 men and 95 women who receive a purse. This is because the number of recipients is equal to the monarch’s age and the Queen will turn 95 on April 21.

Among those to receive Maundy Money was Princes Risborough resident and 100-year-old World War II veteran and Dakota co-pilot Malcolm Cloutt. He was nominated for his outstanding commitment to his local community after spending many years working for Gideons and giving out well over 1,000 bibles to local residents – over the years he has listed every person he has a given a bible to and prays for them regularly. Despite his age, he continues to give out bibles and until recently was active in a local primary school, supporting children with their reading.

Speaking about Malcolm, the Revd David Williams, area dean of Aylesbury said,

“Malcolm is a dear friend to so many of us and is a shining light in our community and further afield. Only recently he was awarded Citizen of the Year by Princes Risborough Town Council and has helped to support a church in Myanmar, a country which he holds dear, thanks to his service during the war when he was stationed in Burma. He continues to amaze us with his boundless energy and can often be seen walking around Princes Risborough, spreading joy wherever he goes.”

Other recipients from across the diocese include:

Elizabeth Harrison (Oxford)

Elizabeth Harrison has been a member of the Cathedral congregation for over 15 years and has been the Honorary Secretary for the Friends of Christ Church Cathedral since 2006. Elizabeth is a focal point for the Friends, running the group, assisting with fundraising for Cathedral projects and widening awareness of the Cathedral’s presence, ministry and mission. She is held in the highest esteem and during 2020 supported the Cathedral with a sizeable donation so that they have been able to improve their ability to offer livestreamed services to a wide audience, including those who are most vulnerable and shielding.

Bridget Crossley (Berkshire)

Bridget Crossley is 80 and has lived in the diocese all of her life bar a brief period when she was at university. She is married to the Revd Dennis Crossley, who at 97 is dependent on her, this being the reason she stood down as Deanery Secretary in November 2020. Her work as Deanery Secretary is the reason for her nomination, with her accuracy, efficiency, kindness and commitment being noted in her nomination.

Elpie Lewis (Dorchester)

Elpie is a champion of her community, along with her husband Jeremy. She has been churchwarden and deputy warden for many years. They work ceaselessly for the community, including organising a wide range of community lunches throughout the year, and Elpie founded the Witney Food and Drink Festival – a remarkable outreach event at St Mary’s Witney, drawing people across the community together. Elpie and Jeremy are generous in hospitality and always at the heart of responding to crisis and need. Following the death of their son many years ago in a car accident, they have been immense in living through tragedy and pain, both their own and others. Elpie works as a volunteer for Seesaw, offering grief support for children and young people in Oxfordshire.

Cyril Crouch (Dorchester)

Cyril has been a member of Shiplake congregation for many years and an active member of the choir until very recently, only stopping when the health of his wife, Mavis, prevented her from singing. Cyril was one of the people responsible for fundraising and organising a new ring of eight bells in Shiplake Church, as well as being involved in replacing the old organ when it finally died. Cyril is the back bone of the ringing community at Shiplake and is part of the Shiplake Training Tower, which encourages young ringers from the local area and beyond to take up bell ringing. Cyril does so much for his local community, but all very quietly and in the background, never wanting to be singled out, never seeking recognition, but he is a man who truly deserves to be recognised by the wider community for all that he does.

Dr John Sorrell (Buckingham)

For 20 years, Dr Sorrell was the village GP of Hanslope & Castlethorpe before leaving at a reorganisation of local health services to set up an Occupational Health business, and even 25 years after he left the local Surgery he is still widely remembered for his skill and care of patients. John has been one of the key people in his community over the last 46 years and not just for his professional work. He works tirelessly in support of the local community and is the first to volunteer and support financially all manner of community activities including the annual pantomime and amateur dramatics society. He is as a trustee of the Village Hall, leads the church pastoral team and runs the village open gardens events. Speaking of John, a member of the village said,

“He does so much but is humble to a fault and would be astonished to be nominated for such an accolade.”

You can learn more about the traditions surrounding Maundy Money by visiting www.royal.uk.