Tribute to inspiring altruist

Rachel Kinchin-Smith.
Rachel Kinchin-Smith.

“THEY say ‘if something needs doing, find a busy person’ and that well describes my mother,” said Rob Kinchin-Smith of his mother Rachel Kinchin-Smith, who died on November 6, aged 87.

Mrs Kinchin-Smith will be remembered for her work setting up organisations to help and support people in need.

Her father, Henry Willink, was the wartime cabinet minister responsible for ‘pre-fab’ homes and laying the foundations for the NHS. Whilst a staunch Liberal in later life, Rachel was president of the Oxford University Conservative Association.

A junior colleague was Margaret Roberts (later Margaret Thatcher).

In 1945 she met her husband, Michael, who had returned to Oxford after the war.

Alongside bringing up six children, she busied herself in London with setting up a charitable housing trust, a voluntary help scheme and was co-opted onto the local Area Health Authority, with a particular interest in mental health. After moving to Epwell in 1981 she was instrumental in establishing a variety of organisations in Banbury to help people in housing need, the housebound and the disabled.

“Rachel was something of a human dynamo.

“If she saw something needed doing, it was her instinct to ensure that it was done,” said Mr Kinchin-Smith, youngest of her six children.

While less active in her final years, Mrs Kinchin-Smith was instrumental in establishing the Banbury and District Housing Coalition, Beacon Centre, Furniture Store, Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme (which in just its first five years underwrote the deposits of nearly 1,000 people), Banburyshire Community Transport Association, Banbury Volunteer Bureau and Banbury Civic Society.

She also served on the Oxford Diocesan Synod, Diocesan Board of Social Responsibility and Bishop’s Council and was locally active for MIND and The Children’s Society.

Her Banbury church and community work colleague Frank Davis said: “In 1994 the Beacon Day Centre, a drop-in centre for homeless and poorly housed adults, was opened thanks largely to the perseverance of Rachel and her husband Michael.

“She also played an active part in raising over £15,000 through an appeal in the Banbury Guardian, allowing the Housing Coalition to organise Banbury’s first CRISIS Winter Shelter, revealing the surprising extent of ‘hidden homelessness’ among local single people.”

Mr Kinchin-Smith said: “This year her first venture in Richmond celebrates 50 years of community service.

“That so many of my mother’s ventures are still growing and flourishing is ample testimony to her unassuming character and her talent in inspiring others. Without her, the world would be a poorer place.”