Mary Cecil was the youngest child of Montagu and Ethel Lomax. Mary was born in Christchurch, New Zealand, and was a year old when the Lomax family returned home to England. She next appears in the records at age 16, when she was entered as a boarder at the Bedford High School in January 1911. Her parents were living in Florence, Italy at this stage. There are no records for her after she left school, so I don’t know whether she went to university, or served in the war.
She married in July 1918, and this is where her life started to get interesting. Her husband, Spencer Leeson (1882-1956) was a fascinating man. His father, Dr J. Leeson was a surgeon and had been a pupil of the Edinburgh great surgeon, Joseph Lister, later becoming mayor of Twickenham. Spencer Leeson served in Naval Intelligence during the first world war. He became headmaster of Merchant Taylors School and then Winchester College, after which he took holy orders and eventually became bishop of Peterborough. He was a leading thinker on education, and advocated that the elite schools should open their doors to bright children of the less privileged classes. His entry in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography commented “ His marriage to Mary Cecil (1895-1967), daughter of Dr Montagu Lomax, gave him not only an unusually happy family life (they had one son and three daughters) , but also a ‘business manager’. Able administrator though he was , he could never be bothered with his own affairs and left them to his wife.’
Spencer Leeson had his portrait painted for Merchant Taylors School by the society portrait artist Oswald Birley. Some years later in 1958, Spencer’s daughter Jill, married Hugh Lewis Birley, a distant relative of the artist (they shared a great, great grandfather.) Jill was given away by her uncle Guy (Montagu’s eldest son).
Spencer and Mary Cecil’s second daughter Audrey was married to Robert W. Nevin, surgeon to the queen’s household and to the Metropolitan Police. Their eldest daughter, Elizabeth, never married but led a fascinating life detailed in her autobiography – Alone on a Crooked Mile.
Mary Cecil Leeson (nee Lomax) died in Winchester in 1967.
So Montagu would have been very proud of his daughter and granddaughters.
The story is classical of the rise of the middle classes from Victorian times – the great granddaughter of a tanner in Bermondsey (Thomas Smith), married to the surgeon serving the queen’s household.
Spencer Leeson. A memoir by some of his friends. Billing and Sons Ltd, London 1958
Alone on a crooked Mile by Elizabeth Leeson, edited by Bill Weston. Huddersfield 2005