Miriam Gent (nee Senior) – 8s 39-48

Tuesday 01 February 2022

Submitted by Henry Gent

Miriam Gent was born in Gloucestershire and grew up in Suffolk. She wrote this about herself:

“I went to board at a school called Christ’s Hospital. I was very “middle of the road” academically but enjoyed hockey and games. I rose to be deputy head girl and followed my father to Leeds University. I then became a Child Care officer for the Children’s Society and in 1955 married my lovely farmer Derek and came to Mosshayne. I was married for 54 years, Derek died in 2009.”

Miriam Gent, known as “Mim”, came to Broadclyst at the age of 16, in 1945, her father having been appointed by the National Trust as their first Agent at the Killerton Estate.  After university she was a Child Care officer for the Children’s Society.  She married a local farmer, Derek Gent, in 1955, and lived at Mosshayne Farm for 66 years until her death in September.  Mim was Secretary of Broadclyst WI for many years and it was with the WI that she produced the Broadclyst Pageant in the 1960s.  The Pageant, a history of Broadclyst in fancy dress, started as a Christmas Party for something called the “Over Sixties Club” in the Victory Hall and was expanded into an outdoor spectacular in the grounds of Killerton House, complete with local farmers galloping around dressed as Cavaliers, “country dancing”, and myself, a small child, hidden behind the Ha-Ha setting a fire to represent the Vikings burning the villages.  Mim was a successful fund-raiser for Devon WI, and they put her onto their trustees, which she chaired for at least 25 years.  Other organisations that she chaired included the St Petrocs centre for homeless people in Exeter and a youth club in Broadclyst.   She also did a lot of fund-raising for Broadclyst Church, often joint productions with her sister Mary, especially the many exhibitions of a family collection of lace.

She was interested and supportive of the primary care service of the NHS and was a board member from 1972 for Devon, eventually becoming chairman of Devon FHSA, responsible for all the non-hospital NHS in Devon, for 10 years from 1985 to 1995.  In parallel she trained as a Reader in the Church of England, was licenced in 1980, and went on to become a Deacon in 1987, and a priest in 1994, the first year that women were ordained in the Church of England.  She was a curate in Pinhoe and Broadclyst and a diocesan training officer.  Many local people remember my mother looking after them as children on Sundays, or have family who were married, or buried, by Mim.  She is particularly remembered for all the training that she did with young people in both Pinhoe and Broadclyst, often involving hospitality down at the farm.

My mother was a confident and inspirational church leader and preacher.  She is remembered for her voice.  She did not shout but she was always clear.  Most of all she is remembered for her smile and her hospitality.  She liked to get people talking and was good at breaking the ice in one way or another, sometimes involving gin. She liked fun and dressing up.  When she retired as chairman of the NHS she went along to the Christmas party with the other chairman, another “farmer’s wife”, the two of them in fancy dress as “two fat fairies”, my mother in a pink tutu!

My mother was very fond of Broadclyst, and enjoyed gardening and volunteering at Clyst Caring after she retired from the NHS.  She said that “growing old is not for the faint hearted” but as her own capacity showed signs of age, she became more like herself, calm and strong in her faith.  She is succeeded by two daughters and a son, six grandchildren, and three great-grandchildren.