Remembering Peggy Ashton

peggy_tawari_95Remembering Peggy Ashton on Suffrage Day:  8th December 1920 – 6th September 2013

Peggy Ashton was a much loved Devonport local, one of those wonderful people who, through their involvement and commitment, give meaning to community. Peggy was a peace activist, she was part of the women’s movement, a member of the Maori Women’s Welfare League and she actively supported the development of the Awataha Marae on Auckland’s North Shore.

When Peggy died this month she was farewelled in our local funeral home by the people she had loved, supported, mentored and befriended, and her service was introduced by her friend Lawrence Carter. We have largely reproduced Lawrence’s words because, in describing Peggy, they are a guide for how to live meaningfully in the world. In these times of increased urbanisation when communities seem an endangered species we often need to be reminded of how meaningful community comes about.

“People come to funerals with a variety of emotions: we might feel grief, great sadness at our loss; or we might have some regret at something done, or not done.  We may feel somehow inadequate to the occasion.  All of these are natural responses; however I think we also now have an opportunity to think about and appreciate Peggy’s life as a whole, and to draw inspiration from it.  And it was a remarkable life indeed.

I met Peggy at the Quaker meeting she attended at Takapuna.  In my mind I have a little list of people of whom I can say: “I am really glad I knew this person!”, and Peggy is on my list.  She was for me a special person: kind, loving, and generous.  When I think of Peggy I think “simple goodness”.  She was absolutely devoted to her family, but her love spread far beyond them to so many people.  She was genuinely interested in others, and was always ready to offer practical help.

Peggy was a member of the Religious Society of Friends, or Quakers, and this was very important to her.  Quakers believe that there is a divine essence, what they call “that of God”, in each person.  Each person is therefore infinitely valuable.  If there is that of God in you, it is unthinkable that I should do you harm.  So Quakers are peace people: they refuse to fight or even prepare for war.  They value simplicity, equality, and truth.  There is a Quaker phrase: “speak truth to power”, and Peggy protested with others at the great issues of the day, such as the anti-nuclear campaign.  But it was in the human contact that Peggy excelled.  There is a Quaker advice: “let your life speak” – and Peggy did just that.  She loved others, and expressed that love in practical action.” Lawrence Carter


Peggy, hand tinted photograph, 1950

Peggy’s wisdom and way also describe a recipe for greater peace in the world. Her qualities are encapsulated in the profound words of the Tao Te Ching, by Lao Tzu, 6BC (translated by Ch’u Ta Kao) below:

Chapter 22

‘Be humble, and you will remain entire.’
Be bent, and you will remain straight.
Be vacant, and you will remain full.
Be worn, and you will remain new.
She who has little will receive.
She who has much will be embarrassed.
Therefore the Sage keeps to One and becomes the standard for the world.
She does not display herself; therefore she shines.
She does not approve herself; therefore she is noted.
She does not praise herself; therefore she has merit.
He does not glory in himself; therefore he excels.
And because she does not compete; therefore no one in the world can compete with her.
The ancient saying ‘Be humble and you will remain entire’ –
Can this be regarded as mere empty words?
Indeed she shall return home entire.

– Linda Blincko, September 19, 2013