A bequest from a modest and enigmatic resident of Wellington, NSW will provide a huge boon for University of Sydney’s research into Australia’s second most common cancer.

When she died in May this year, Emma Elwin à Beckett left the bulk of her estate to the University of Sydney to advance research into bowel cancer. The gift was in honour of her much-loved brother Martin, who died from the disease in 1986.

Increased testing means the incidence of, and mortality from, bowel cancer has fallen since Martin’s death. However, it still accounts for 13 per cent of all cancer in NSW and is becoming increasingly linked to other chronic diseases.

The William Arthur Martin à Beckett Cancer Research Trust – formally launched in December – will allow researchers to better understand bowel cancer and interrelated diseases.

Ms à Beckett, who never married, moved with her family to “Mt Bodangora”, near Wellington in the 1940s, and then to Maxwell St, Wellington in the 1950s. She was a resident of the Bellhaven Aged Care Facility from 1999.

Close relative, cousin Ann Allworth, described her as “more English than Aussie”. Her home was comfortable – filled with antiques, which were handed down through the family – stylish, yet modest.

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Elwin à Beckett in front of Wilton House, Salisbury UK in 1956

“They were loyal and generous to close friends and to their family, but were relatively removed from community life in Wellington,” another cousin, Bish Allworth, said. “They were generous to those whom they recognised as needing support but never sought recognition for what they gave.”

Elwin was much loved by all of the à Beckett family who have expressed their enormous pride in her decision to make such a generous bequest in support of bowel cancer research at The University of Sydney.

The gift comes via The Trust Company, which has managed Elwin’s affairs prior to her death and is now trustee and sole executor of her estate.

The University is considering the most impactful way to use the fund. Possibilities include purchasing essential equipment, funding postgraduate scholarships and the recruitment of a new Chair: the Elwin à Beckett Chair for the Prevention, Detection and Treatment of Bowel Cancer.

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