Former UTU Director, Noel Irwin, reflects back on friendship, hospitality and scheming with Grace Vincent.
I first met Grace Vincent in the summer of 1999 when I came over to Sheffield to attend UTU summer schools and talk with John Vincent about doing a PhD with him and UTU.
Grace picked up on my Belfast accent very quickly and we chatted about her dad (I had known of him), her time at school in Methodist College Belfast, Queen’s University Belfast and my research interest on the ‘Troubles’.
It was clear to me even, after an initial meeting, that Grace had an incisive and independent mind which cut through any waffling or hypocrisy.
Subsequently, when I began to travel over to UTU for supervisions every three months I would stay in UTU but Grace would feed me down the street in their house.
I have very happy memories of sitting in their garden: the three of us speaking and laughing about various things while eating Grace’s cakes.
As you do with the Vincents, you end up joining in with whatever scheme of the Kingdom of God they have going at that particular time. So, I moved to Sheffield in September 2000 and saw Grace’s incredible commitment and appetite for work in Ashram, SICEM, the two New Roots shops and of course constant support for UTU and whatever work John was embarked upon.
I always loved Grace’s company, it was great to see her in any of my classes because she would ask the questions others were thinking about but were afraid to ask. I always told her she was a proper Ulsterwoman!
I had the great privilege last year, when I was in my final year as UTU Director and commuting over from Manchester to Sheffield, to stay with them every couple of months just before they moved house.
Again food was involved with Grace’s cake in the evening and John’s porridge in the morning.
Now Grace is gone I shall always treasure those times, the stories shared, but especially when she told John off because he would take it from no one else but her!
My life has been greatly enriched by spending time with Grace Vincent in many different Sheffield contexts. What an absolutely remarkable woman. May she rest in peace.