Hilary Fortnam (née Awdry) (April 12, 1946 - November 25, 2013) was a lay minister and Christian rights activist who was Wilbert and Margaret Awdry's daughter, Christopher and Veronica's sister, one of George Awdry's nieces, an aunt of Richard Awdry, Lucy and Vere Awdry's granddaughter, the grandmother of Ruth Fortnam, and a sister-in-law of Diana Awdry. She appeared in the Thomas the Tank Engine Man Documentary in 1995. She later appeared alongside Christopher on BBC News and local BBC radio stations to celebrate 65 years of Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.
In Autumn 2011, Hilary sent a letter to The Daily Telegraph criticising HiT Entertainment's decision to rebrand Christmas in the television series as "the winter holidays" as of eighth season. Her letter stated: "I am dismayed at 'Thomas the Tank Engine' having to call a Christmas tree a 'winter holiday tree'. It is not what my father wrote. Those who now write his stories should not take Christ out of Christmas."
Because of this, the UK release of Merry Winter Wish was delayed for 2011 and many of the episodes related to Christmas from the fourteenth and fifteenth seasons were redubbed on the UK DVDs. But the episodes in the US and on Channel 5's Milkshake television broadcasts in the UK remained unchanged. However, this issue was fixed altogether in both regions starting with the seventeenth season.
Hilary was a lay minister at St. Michael's and All Angels Church in Highworth, Wiltshire, England, following in her late father's footsteps. She began training in 1987 and despite the passing of her mother Margaret and the time she had to spend looking after her father, she completed her course and was licensed in 1990. From then on, she continued to spread the word of God right up until her death on November 25th, 2013. She was 67 and had been battling cancer for at least a decade. Her funeral was held the following week on December 2nd at St. Michael's and All Angels Church where she had been a lay minister for so many years. About 300 people turned out to pay their respects to her.