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Susan Altschul; Jenny Barger; Sheila de Bellaigue; Brian Blandford; Ruth Eldon; Lara Feigel; Miranda Forward; Wendy Hurden; Crispin Lewis; Vicky Maltby; Griselda Mussett; Patricia Potts; Brigitte Rudd; Susannah Self; Virginia Smith; Anuradha Swaminathan; Susanna Tomalin; Judith Unwin; Louise Vink; Meg Harris Williams (more welcome) ...

 

 

Susan Altschul

When we studied Shakespeare in her English classes we had to read all the parts out loud. She explained them to us and gave us ways of seeing different interpretations. We did a class outing to see the film of Julius Caesar (the one with Marlon Brando). To this day, when I see Shakespeare on stage I note how many of the actors just don't get it the way she got it. I saw her at the 1987 reunion and I hope I was able to convey to her how much she had inspired a love of English in me.

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Jenny Barger

Her teaching was inspiring even for a future doctor like me. She instilled a love of literature, or reading, which has never left me.

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Sheila de Bellaigue

Miss Macaulay was my godmother; she was a pupil at Clapham High School GPDST at the same time as my mother, Doreen Johnston, and they were at Cambridge together. As I spent most of my childhood in Africa, I did not see much of her then, but she was a generous source of Christmas gifts, envied by my siblings. I particularly remember two of her presents: Walter de la Mare's anthology Come Hither, a welcome addition to our rather white-ant-eaten bookshelves in Uganda, and Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes's Rattle Bag which she gave me much later, for my children.

When we came home on leave she would take me and my sister to the ballet or theatre, a novel and thrilling experience for us. When I came to live in London and she was in her eighties, she occasionally drove - alarmingly - to South London in her battered car to visit us; she also kept in regular touch with my mother, who shared her love of music and probably sang many a madrigal with her at Cambridge. But they parted company over one interest: my mother could never understand Joie's - or Mackie, as we called her - devotion to her dogs, and so they did not meet as often as both would perhaps have liked.

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Brian Blandford:

What neither Joie nor I could understand was how we became such firm friends at our first meeting during my first tea break with the Mary Ward Singers in 1995 – but we did comment on it! When towards the end of her life I expressed heartfelt gratitude to her for all she had done for me - especially her support when I lost my father, and, later, my neighbour Naomi Lewis - her comment was 'Don't talk nonsense!' But, to put the record straight, here is a tiny snapshot:

She introduced me to some lovely people - her friends, the clergy at St Marylebone, and her tenants - past and present.We went to some memorable evenings at the theatre, such as South Africa's Spier Festival company performing Mysteries Yiimimangaliso at Wilton's Music Hall, Clare Higgins as Hecuba at the Donmar, and The Duchess of Malfi at the Old Vic. We heard Crispin Lewis' Musicall Compass perform Seven Last Words by Joseph Haydn, with dance by Jo Meredith.She took me to the wedding in Monemvasia of John Craig Gray and Lara Feigel.We visited the Aldeburgh Festival with Jane Ackroyd, we visited Ian and Felicity Steadman in Oxford.We walked Tray and Geoffrey on Primrose Hill - and she often brought Geoffrey to concerts in St Mary's Primrose Hill given by Camden Chamber Choir (his behaviour was impeccable).

Since 2011 she was wonderfully cared for by Alina, Shu, Lois, Sandy, Dee, Mary, Sandra, Anna, Hatice, Seray, Maria, Divna ... it was a privilege to see real caring in action! For the record, her last trip to the theatre was to see Scenes from an Execution at the NT in December 2012. Her last trip to the opera was to see The Marriage of Figaro at Covent Garden in October 2013. And her last visit outside London was to Chearsley, to visit Ingrid Thorstadt and John, in June 2014.

A life lived unselfishly and to the full.

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Ruth Eldon

An inspirational teacher with a dry sense of humour.

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Lara Feigel

My first encounter with Joie Macaulay was through the archives. I was the school archivist and noticed her name reappearing repeatedly in accounts of the plays in school magazines over many years. There was a sense of camaraderie when she was mentioned. She started to intrigue me.. At that stage, we were trying to fill in the gaps in the archive, so I wrote to her suggesting that I should take some of the rather chaotic photo albums, in the hope that she could add names and dates. She invited me round and thus, at the age of seventeen, I found myself entering the shambolic, elegant world of Abbey Road for the first time. There was what would become a familiar scuffle in the kitchen, locating teapot, cups and a bowl for what would become the familiar cherries. We sat on her roof terrace in the sun and she asked me eagerly about my days at South Hampstead, about what I was reading in English lessons and at home, about my friends and teachers. I in turn asked her about the school of her day, which sounded a reassuringly familiar place, somewhere between Malory Towers and the school that I knew, a world of pranks, japes and literary and theatrical passion.

Joie was an important figure for me and I’ve never properly analysed exactly why. Certainly, she was furthering my literary education, which was my main passion. And she was doing it in a way that was very unlike being with a teacher. She always seemed to start from a position of being less sure than I was – completely open to having her mind changed by this seventeen year old who had appeared one day in her house. I suppose it was more than that, though. Gradually we began to talk about what she termed ‘the moving toyshop of the heart’. I was in a period of romantic confusion, too shy to name my feelings to the people I was falling in love with, even to myself. Somehow it was possible to talk to Joie about these experiences without talking about them.

The years went on. I went to Oxford, and visited in the holidays and wrote her letters. I moved to Switzerland and then back to London, where I soon moved in with John, the man I later married, and started my trajectory towards doing a PhD. Our interests, now, collided slightly less easily. She was perplexed that I wanted to study writers of the 1930s and 40s, who she’d thought of as figures of marginal interest growing up in that era. Why not go back to the seventeenth century, her era, or at least to Eliot. Why wasn’t I working on poetry. But we still mattered to each other, and we still had new experiences. We went to the opera. I accompanied her a couple of times to church, lured by the promise of beautiful music, which was amply fulfilled. Tray died, and her friends wondered how she’d cope. But then there was Geoffrey. It was unexpected – the speed with which she moved on and found that she could love a new dog with similar passion. But it also wasn’t unexpected, because Joie was someone for whom the new came easily – she gave her full self to any new experience or encounter, so there was never jadedness, there was the potential each time for passion.

In 2006 John and I got married on a small rather rugged island in Greece. Joie was frailer than she’d once been, but she gamely came along, accompanied by her friend Brian. She found the heat troubling. She started teetering a little, and then was laid suddenly very low by a mosquito bite in her eye. Both eyes closed over and she was rushed to a doctor, who said she’d have died if she hadn’t got there quickly.  It was time for the wedding ceremony, at which she was scheduled to read a poem by Walter Raleigh. She couldn’t see, but this didn’t seem to faze her. She was helped through the garden onto the terrace we were using as a stage. There she recited the poem from memory with beautifully weighted cadences, and then stumbled down into the congregation, somehow managing not to fall. The next day she was gamely climbing up the strikingly steep hill to try to see the deserted chapel on top. She was frustrated only to get halfway up before being felled by the heat.

There was a sense that throughout her life Joie was a child, in league with the other adult-children she met, against the grown ups. Certainly this characterised our friendship – we met in a state of innocent wonder and I looked forward to seeing Joie because within minutes the practical worries of grown up life could be forgotten and we would find ourselves musing on the implications of a complicated Shakespeare sonnet. Her favourite literary characters shared this state as well. I often think of her quoting Estragon and Vladimir, as they wander perplexedly around their strangely unfamiliar familiar world.

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Miranda Forward

Marjorie (Miss Macaulay to me, of course) was my English teacher in the 1960s. I have very vivid, satisfying memories of the exciting discussions and readings of novels and plays. You didn't answer a question unless you were prepared to be disagreed with; but always in a constructive way. She taught me the importance of good preparation and thinking before you speak. I have a powerful memory of our rehearsals and performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Watching school plays was always a highlight - I particularly remember The Crucible.

Thank you, Miss Macaulay - I still love Shakespeare.

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Wendy Hurden (Smith)

There were two teachers at South Hampstead High School in the sixties who enriched
my life immeasurably, and one of those was Miss Macaulay. Her integrity and passion for her subject, combined with expectations of high standards from us, made English lessons not only enjoyable, but memorable. Mark Antony in Julius Caesar, Pentheus in The Bacchae and Lancelot in Le Morte D'Arthur are some of the complex characters that stay with me thanks to the lively discussions she initiated.


Apart from the lessons, inspired book lists were given out and lively school magazines produced, items which I have kept to this day. Several of the magazines mention her contribution to the plays that were staged at school. 'Endless capacity of their director for taking pains' and 'Shrewd direction and impeccable timing on the part of Miss Macaulay' were examples. Marco Millions, The Young Visiters and Monteverdi's Orfeo will be remembered by all of us that took part.


I also remember the excitement of the drama competitions organised by her. These were extracts from plays produced by students after summer exams, and James Roose-Evans, who founded the Hampstead Theatre, was invited to adjudicate.


A love of drama and literature is a gift for life and Miss Macaulay was able to give this to her many pupils.

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Vicky Maltby (Elton)

Thirty-three years after leaving school I can still quote Miss Macaulay verbatim. She was one of my most influential teachers, and I believe all her students owe her an enormous debt of gratitude. Miss Macaulay's gifted, passionate and rigorous teaching ensurd that we were thoroughly grounded in English language (including grammar!) and literature. We were introduced to many classic texts and were enabled to embark on a lifetime of exploration. her classroom teaching was brilliant, striking a perfect balance between giving us instruction and inspiring us to study on our own, and her summer reading lists enabled us to discover a range of work beyond the restrictions of the curriculum and examination texts.

Miss Macaulay was ahead of her time in providing drama teaching and opoprtunities to perform. Every school play she produced was exceptional in its ambition and its success; it is not surprising that many of her students went on to a variety of careers in the theatre or cinema and that others have enjoyed lifetimes of critical theatre- and cinema-going.

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Griselda Mussett

I had lessons with Miss Macaulay in the sixth form and found her to be a fascinating and impassioned teacher, with exacting standards and a fine sense of humour. I had always loved my English classes with her colleague Laura Pettoello, but it was a marvellous addition to have access to the ideas and habits of a different teacher for the A level work.

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Crispin Lewis (music to Milton's Nativity Ode) click here

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Patricia Potts (Tyerman):

Joie was a small woman with a long stride. I first met her in the autumn of 1959. She was my English teacher for the next seven years and my form mistress in the upper sixth. Life in her classrooms was intense and challenging. Essays would be handed back to us long after we’d given up hope of seeing them again, their margins crammed with comments, questions, how-could-you’s, the occasional surprised ‘Yes!’ and lists of further reading. Her criticism could be sharp but there was no denying the positive shock of having to defend your point of view.

Joie grew up in Wandsworth. My mother lived at the Balham end of Clapham Common. They both attended Clapham High School, a long-since closed member of the Girls’ Public Day School Trust. My mother was three years older but Joie remembered her. This background may have been a factor in Joie coming to South Hampstead, another Trust school, in the 50s. It was certainly why I and my sisters were sent there when my parents moved back to London after ten years in Essex. Joie’s parents were both teachers. She was their only child. Her mother’s mother lived with them after she was widowed. Joie remembered the pleasure of reading together in the evenings, the four of them, in the sitting-room. Joie never formed the habit of reading in bed at night. Joie hated getting up and she hated going to bed. She was happy to talk on the phone after midnight, if she wasn’t already writing you a five-page letter. I imagine that her expansive marking was often done in the middle of the night.

One July in the 80s I went with my sister Mary to hear Jean Middlemiss play in a Tallis Chamber Orchestra concert at St. Martin’s-in-the Fields. Jean was Head of Music at South Hampstead and worked with Joie on many school productions, most notably Monteverdi’s Orfeo – for which I was up in the gallery with my bassoon. These were complex projects and Joie was not known for her negotiating skills. But her intransigence resulted in oustanding performances. I particularly remember Joie directing the medieval morality play Everyman. Joie was in the audience for that July concert. As we talked in the interval I complained about the choir we were then singing with. ‘You must come to mine’, Joie said. ‘That’d be good’, I said, not giving it any more thought. In September Joie rang. ‘I hope you’re coming on Thursday’, she said. Even after so long … we went. The dozen years or so in Queen Square were among the happiest of my musical life.

Our conductor was David Graham, now Fellow and Professor of Organ Studies at the Royal College of Music. David and Joie shared a great mutual respect but this didn’t prevent her from speaking out severely when she thought the words of our repertoire were unworthy. David generously gave us advice about the music for today’s service, with Joie specifically in mind. On Thursdays, Joie would arrive late. She came slowly up to her place in the altos with a weary flick of her left hand and a ‘don’t ask!’ look on her face.

When the choir came to an end and we singers dispersed, I began to visit Joie at home, in the Abbey Road house where she lived for sixty years. Nothing much was altered in all that time. The Festival of Britain curtain material – bright triangles of lemon, grey and scarlet – hung on the kitchen windows and over the shelves of cookbooks. Joie was as nonchalant about her surroundings as she was fastidious about her clothes, a different outfit every day, smart and colour-coordinated, always with a carefully chosen brooch.

We sometimes went in the car to Primrose Hill to give the dog a good run. Up Marlborough Place, over to Queen’s Grove, across The Avenue into Ellsworthy Road and the park’s side entrance. Not far but a perilous trip for Joie didn’t pay much attention on the road. She firmly refused my offers to drive. You could tell when she’d been up to the Finchley Road Waitrose - the car would be spattered with yellow paint from the close-knit pillars in the underground car park. The mass of scrapings and dents prompted her garage to suggest a replacement. ‘Why?’ said Joie, ‘there’ll only be more next week’.

More recently, having tea with Joie changed. The spread of toasted scones, chocolate biscuits and home-made cake while discussing at length the play or opera she had just seen became a small piece of cake and a looped conversation about where I live and how I had travelled to Abbey Road. When she realised how many times she’d asked me the same question and how many times she’d forgotten my answer, she would laugh heartily at the idea of such a tedious exchange.

Joie was passionate and demanding. Her love of Chaucer and Shakespeare, Bunyan and Milton has been passed on to generations of students, beneficiaries of her unstinting commitment.

(read at Joie's funeral, 14 July 2015)

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Brigitte Rudd (Smith)

Wonderful inspiration. I kept in touch over the years. I will never forget her kindness. She encouraged me to write which is a constant joy. A truly inspiring teacher. We are so lucky to have been introduced to literature and drama by such a creative mind.

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Susannah Self

She was a flamboyant and no nonsense person. She gave me a feeling that I could achieve anything if I employed focus, discipline and hard work. She also displayed an outstanding passion for literature which was inspiring.

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Virginia Smith

Miss Macaulay was one of the most frightening teachers in the school; but also the one I most respected. She treated one as an adult, and had adult standards which she expected you to rise to - which I think we did. There was no slacking in her classes. She did not demand perfection, but she did demand effort and imagination. In those classes she illuminated and deconstructed literature in a stringent and subtle way that has stayed all one's life, and undoubtedly helped many of us to 'read the text' wherever or whatever it was.

Her plays were magnificent efforts. They took up vast amounts of school time, which we all gave willingly, including the rest of the staff. She distributed the tasks fairly and firmly, from acting to set-painting - it made school so much more fun. Only later did one realise that productions such as Monteverdi's Orfeo or Brecht's The Caucasian Chalk Circle were pretty advanced stuff for schools even then. Taking us to the Aldwych RSC brought professional theatre into our lives permanently - and ultimately led me to meeting my husband-to-be backstage at university. Some legacy! I only wish that I had had a chance to tell her...

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Anuradha Swaminathan

I have seen the words 'passion' and 'passionate' used of Miss Macaulay. But I would prefer to apply them to her colleague, Ms Laura Pettoello. I would call Miss Macaulay firm, at times dogged, in the sense of consistently adhering to views she had formed and expressing them forcefully. She taught me English language and literature between the ages of 11 and 16. Towards the end of that period, I sensed a divergence between us: her very strong Englishness occasionally dismissed my growing interest in other literatures of the world. Yet I came to realize that she was very much a teacher of her generation, steeped in the study of the classics of Ancient Greece and in the traditional greats of English literature, who could nonetheless also be highly appreciative of twentieth century works (for example, by Louis MacNeice, Thornton Wilder, and William Golding).

Above all, her teaching offered me basics that have never left me. Hers was the heaviest subject for written homework. Essays or compositions were the norm, reflecting much to her credit: for marking some thirty-two efforts of our form constantly, with the thorough and constructive acumen she gave to the task each time, yielded results over the years. How well I remember her indications - a straight line through (an outright mistake, in spelling or grammar, for instance), a wavy line underneath (something to be improved), a short tick (something well expressed), all capped by her final grading and comments. I still remember instances of her emphasis on precision and economy of wording: to this day I avoid using 'rather' with an adjective because, as she pointed out, it isn't clear whether we mean 'quite' or 'very' good or whatever.


I participated in two of the school plays she put on - The Agamemnon and The Winter's Tale - both of a very high standard. In the first, to me the most remarkable features were the achievement of welding several girls into an effectively expressive chorus, and the excellent casting, particularly of a Clytemnestra in turn passionate and icy (Pat Nathanson) and a bitingly insolent Aegisthus (Julia Ballam). The second successfully combined the seriousness of tragedy and the more light-hearted colour of the 'Bohemian' interlude. In both, she harnessed not only the acting talents of the girls, but also their artistic and musical gifts, in which Jean Middlemiss (head of music) used her pupils' abilities in musical composition and also an outside composer of her acquaintance, as well as the staff's contribution to the choreography.


Miss Macaulay's love of the literature she taught was both audible and visible. I don't know if the tradition of pupils' satirical sketches on their teachers at the end of term still persists. One group, performing to the whole Senior School, took off Miss Macaulay casting a reading of Romeo and Juliet. It went something like this: 'Romeo - young, handsome, valiant, passionate... I'll read that. Juliet - beautiful, loving, youthfully touching... I'll take that. The Nurse - characterful, the main comic element... I'll take that. First, Second and Third Citizen... you, you and you. Oh dear, there's the bell. We must stop now.' Of course this was an exaggeration, as satire is, but she was laughing as she watched. Even when others were reading a main part, her lips could be seen to move as she looked at the text, so greatly did she love her favourite passages.


My latest contacts with her were during annual visits to the UK from Geneva (where I still live) when we spoke on the telephone, or I went to see her at her home. We talked at some length 'of cabbages and kings', often about literature, also about opera and about her post-retirement teaching and school governorship experiences. Once I told her about a small success I had had with a radio play competition and was most touched that she arranged to listen to it and wrote to me about it: I was absurdly pleased at her praise—but is it so absurd when it comes from such a major formative influence in using language?


At times we had some of those dogged arguments. She once argued that an able writer's private life and personal characteristics were of no importance whatsoever, whereas I held that the public's curiosity and interest in these matters was only natural and even inevitable, as attested by the sometimes great success of their biographers. In fact, our points of view were perfectly compatible, but I was struck by her vehemence.
She was always interested in my personal plans and well-being. On one visit I was a few days away from seeing a performance of Victor Hugo's Ruy Blas in Paris: I told her about my moving recollection of the first time I saw it, in the company of my mother, who, though understanding not a word (Alexandrine verses to boot!), sat through the whole of it, in order to further my knowledge of French and enrich my cultural experiences! Our last conversations were in 2004, when I recall that she expressed her strong preference for poetry and drama over the novel. I thought she taught all three extremely well. She was amongst those who cared most about my cultural progress and involvement in the arts.

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Susanna Tomalin

It is very odd to go to a school where there is no Miss Macaulay. It scarcely feels like school. For seven years, since I was eleven, I have had English lessons with Miss Macaulay; and those lessons have tempered seven years with a sense of excitement, constant tension, and constant anticipation of richness. I think everyone who shared these lessons felt like this: 'English lessons were different' a friend of mine (cautious of judgement, suspicious of literature) recently said to me: it was true. They were different because they were completely unpredictable. Once, when we were very young, Miss Macaulay came into the classroom: 'I could hear you all whispering "She's here, she's here" from the corridor. Write me a poem beginning like that.' We read out what we had written with hysterical laughter. They were different because we used to talk, very fast, all the time, if we were not pushing the desks aside and acting; they were also different because the air seemed to be more highly charged than at other times. Miss Macaulay cared, deeply, about what she was teaching, and she made me care. What we read leaked over the firm black lines of the timetable that usually shut subjects in on themselves; I remember jumping from desk to desk in the formroom at break, shouting the soliloquies from Macbeth in chorus; acting out 'Porphyria's lover' in graphic detail in the playground.

Other people who learnt English from other teachers (unthinkable for me until I was 16) used to say 'Are you doing Keats? Oh, we've done him.' No one whom Miss Macaulay had taught could ever say they had 'done' a book; we were always doing it, long after we had finished reading it in class. Everything we ever studied, from the Upper III, was a source of comparison and reference until the Upper VI. Our first book was the Iliad; we used to act and dance scenes in the gym. We learnt the first line in Greek, by heart. I only realised how vividly I had taken it in when I came to read it in Greek, in the Upper VI, and whole chunks of those Upper III lessons came back to me in full detail. We used to read, from the very beginning, with very close attention to words and detail; we moved slowly and discussed at length. But Miss Macaulay always objected to us taking notes in the lesson, because this implied a belief that what was said was the simple truth; we were always left with the sense that there was vastly more to be said, and that it could be said in different ways.

However, this attitude didn't make any excuse for vagueness or pretension: these two qualities were always sliced sharply from our essays. Behind the beautiful loops and curves of Miss Macaulay's handwriting lurked a razor-sharp critic. We were taught to write with a precision, to plan; our punctuation and spelling were thoroughly overhauled (lessons in the use of the semi-colon; writing out 'rhythm' twenty times). This rigour and discipline was also a feature of Miss Macaulay's cultivation of our creative writing. We were constantly given new exercises and experiments to try; we wrote blank verse, ballads, ghost stories, Spenserian stanzas, free verse, alliterative verse, sonnets, half-rhymes ... This early use and understanding of form proved marvellously astringent to the indulgent nebulosities of adolescent thought. Miss Macaulay combined extreme interest and enthusiasm over what we wrote with tough and perceptive criticism of it. Like this she built up the best possible attitude in us: that we all had things to say, but needed extreme discipline and concentration to say them properly.

An old South Hampstead girl who had never been taught by Miss Macaulay said she thought there ws a distinct, differentiating quality in those that had - something about the way they thought, talked, read. Certainly I am sure that my English lessons have had a huge influence on me; I feel suddenly, with no Miss Macaulay to refer my thoughts to, to write essays for, I have lost some essential touchstone. But then I look back at the strength and knowledge I have gathered from her in the last seven years, and know that there is enough force there to steer one through any chaos.

Written in 1976 for the SHHS school magazine on the occasion of Miss Macaulay's retirement.

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Judith Unwin

The words 'inspiring teacher' are somewhat overused but they absolutely describe Miss Macaulay! I did A level English when at SHHS and can still recall episodes of specific lessons with her and various texts which we studied.

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Louise Vink

I first got to know Joie when I was starting out as a new teacher at St Marylebone School in about 1993; Joie was a Governor with oversight of English. She was friends with two colleagues of mine, Stephanie Mackey, who was Head of English, and Pat van der Zee who was the previous Head of English and now a Senior Teacher.  I became one of the teacher Governors and Joie would generously give me lifts home afterwards, ‘generously’ because it necessitated quite a round trip for her via Kilburn. The journeys were slow and erratic, punctuated by irritated honkings and flashing from other drivers. Joie’s car was covered in dents. I decided I wasn’t bothered: nothing very much would happen as Joie drove so slowly. Besides, conversation was always interesting and wide-ranging and it was a fantastic relief and contrast to be with her, snug in a little car, after all the edu-speak and confrontations of the meetings we had just left.


Later on I sometimes visited Joie in Abbey Road (again deciding not to worry – this time about dogs licking my new baby) or we would go out for coffee (with Geoffrey sitting under the table) on Marylebone High Street. Later still, I would meet up with Joie at Meg’s house when Joie was staying with her. In all these stages of my friendship with Joie her zest for life, her considered and intelligent views and the amount of things she did were remarkable. What I really think marked Joie out was her warmth and interest in others; when you were with her you always felt focussed upon with her full and caring attention. How very appropriate her name was!
I didn’t know Joie very well, but do feel touched and privileged to have been her friend.

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Meg Harris Williams (Margaret Harris)

Joie Macaulay, whom I first met aged eleven in 1962, was one of those rare and inspired teachers who make you feel that you are not 'having a lesson' but 'experiencing life' – and who become part of that internal pantheon who have 'taught you everything you know'. Her love of literature was essential to her personality. She taught dramatically, using her RADA training (she originally wanted to be an actress), so we acted scenes in class. I remember moving the desks around to read the quarrel scene between Brutus and Cassius in Julius Caesar – a play which, with its school-life subtext, spoke vividly in many respects to the fourteen-year-olds that we were. As young adolescents we therefore felt on the pulses that literature was not just a 'subject', but was about the serious task of finding our identity. Even novels were always 'dramatised' and read aloud, with passages divided up for different voices. She was a brilliant reader of poetry, using the Richardsonian (Cambridge) method of 'close reading' to get to the deeper meanings; indeed she found it incomprehensible, and upsetting, if pupils couldn't 'scan' the rhythms of poetry, as if they therefore lacked some essential life-skill. She produced the school magazine and encouraged us to write poetry and stories, above all helping to structure and condense our thinking.


Joie was passionate about linking art, music, and literature (she sang in choirs herself, and went on painting courses), and lots of thought went into scenepainting for the school plays, in collaboration with Jenny Weir (the Head of Art), and into their music (with Jean Middlemiss). At rehearsals for Daisy Ashford's The Young Visiters Joie regaled us with plenty of chocolate biscuits and said she had never laughed so much in her life. Her choice of school plays was sometimes unusual, and she was amused when people told her that after some neglected or little-known play had been produced at SHHS, it appeared in the West End the next year. Amongst others she produced Aeschylus' Agamemnon, Aristophanes' The Frogs, Anouilh's Ring Around the Moon, Monteverdi's Orfeo, Goldoni's Servant of Two Masters, Synge's Riders to the Sea, Miller's The Crucible, Sheridan's The Critic, Eleanor Farjeon's The Glass Slipper, Ibsen's Peer Gynt; also of course A Midsummer Night's Dream (the first Shakespeare introduced at school); and just before her retirement, The Winter's Tale. Another interesting venture was a presentation of the York, Chester and Wakefield medieval Mystery cycles, for which we made puppets in different styles, corresponding to the styles of the plays (shadow, string and glove).


From the sixth form she sent us down to special theatre education days with the RSC at the Aldwych. In 1968 she asked a group of us to paint a mural of The Canterbury Tales across the back wall of her classroom (long since replaced by the new school building). Feeling like satellites of Miss Jean Brodie (being played by Maggie Smith at that time) we went to tea at her house in Abbey Road, and read Paradise Lost in the school's little garden.

In the 1990s she helped me write Five Tales from Shakespeare for children, a project dear to her heart. In 2008 we produced A Morning in Hell with John Milton at St Marylebone with the aid of Chris Mackenna. The sequel to this, namely The Fall of Man, remained in its planning stages; it seemed to get stuck over the problem of 'who on earth could play Eve?' and she would review everyone she knew, as if back at school, but somehow it had the flavour of an internal question about herself and where she was going next. Probably this was the last piece of actual work she engaged in, unfinished.


She was fond of my father (Roland Harris) who was also an English teacher, and who died in my last year at school. She said at parents' evenings they never talked about me, the pupil, but always about literature; one evening they were so involved in discussion they went in last to a talk that was being given, relieved to see two places had been saved, and Joie thought how nice it was to be sitting next to a friend rather than just a parent. She always remained vitally interested in education; hence after retiring from SHHS she tutored at the Open University for five years, then became a governor of St Marylebone School, very involved in their drama department. She also took an acutely observant interest in the development of the children of her ex-pupils, enjoying the talents and personality traits that comprised the growing individual.

One of the vivid memories she recounted from early childhood was of her own father, on leave from the First World War (or possibly just after it was over); he was asleep on the sofa and she said he seemed 'cold' so she took books from the shelves and covered him. She must have been no more than four at the time. It seemed symbolic of the role of books and their content. One’s impression of her parents was of a sensitive man and a wife who found it hard to cope with his depression (a variant of the shell-shock suffered by so many). Joie said he was good with children; and perhaps working with them as a maths teacher eventually helped to pull him through, even though Joie herself acquired a stubborn blankness in relation to all things both mathematical and scientific. Reading Wilfred Owen’s Miners in class has lodged in my memory as a life-changing moment, and resulted in the first serious literary essay I ever wrote.

Joie was argumentative and could be acerbic, but like all true teachers she would readily empathise with any person who required and appreciated her help, and would then be endlessly patient.

She loved both solitude and the company of friends; even at age 90 she recounted how one of her house tenants said they envied her packed social life. Certain practicalities were a mystery to her; after retiring from school she went on a Cordon Bleu course to learn to cook, then concluded this art was only revealed to those who had families to feed. But she was undeterred. She was a scatty if energetic driver and once knocked a corner off our house without noticing. She took pride in her garden, which was always well kept, and liked to swop plants. In her final years, clouded by dementia, she would worry about who would take care of her house and furniture, as if forgetting she was the transmitter of far more precious gifts.


Several of my contemporaries have expressed what a formative influence she had on their own development, and have asked that a special Thank You be appended from SHHS.


Boswell said of Dr Johnson that if only all his friends had been as ardent and diligent as he was himself, the great man 'might have been entirely preserved'. A delightful and ingenuous fantasy that nonetheless has a grain of truth: in that memory, as autobiography rather than straight biography, has a vital potential for seeding itself in other minds, and thus the 'object' is preserved internally.

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