A life well-lived

photo 1942

Alice had lots of friends and interests, many of which lasted throughout her life. She enjoyed an active social life and her interest in travel, books, music, politics and education continued well into her 100th year.

Alice had a wide circle of friends and lots of interests, many of which lasted throughout her life. She enjoyed an active social life and her interest in travel, books, music, politics and education continued well into her 100th year.

2011 Walking along the Lea River near her home

She taught primary school children in Islington before switching to Hackney where she was involved in new initiatives to improve children’s reading skills. After she retired she did voluntary work in local skills, working one to one with children who were struggling to keep up.

School-friend reunions

Long after they left school, Alice’s cohort of friends from Central Foundation for Girls, Spitalfields, met up every 4 years.

School frinds reunited 

They travelled to Leeds, Chichester, Bromley, Berkshire, Hampshire and maybe further afield for regular reunions from 1976 onwards especially in the 1990s.  Alice outlived all the others.

How I met Alice

Marlene McAndrew writing in 2021

In my twenties I joined the London Youth Choir, a left-wing choral group led by John Hasted.  One very active member was Wendy Edwards neé Corum,  and through Wendy I met Alice, who was not then a choir member. Wendy and Alice had met when travelling to start teacher training and immediately struck up a friendship which was to last all their lives.

I met Alice occasionally at Wendy’s house in Tottenham and at first found her rather formidable! She seemed a strong personality who had little time for wimps, of whom I suppose I was one! But over the years we seemed to change; Alice became gentler and I hope I became less of a wimp, and our relationship developed into a friendship.

Wendy Corum and Alice, two formidable women on a mission

Alice was interested in all the arts, but particularly in physical movement, especially mime and dance, participating in and latterly forming a folk dance group for Hackney U3A, whose members were very enthusiastic and saddened when she was  obliged to give it up.

Foreign Travel was also one of Alice’s enthusiasms, particularly to what might be called “challenging” places. During the time I knew her she spent holidays in Viet-Nam (including descending into the tunnels which were used during the war), India, and boating along the Amazon. I recall she also went to the West Indies with other teachers who wished to learn of the background of many of their pupils and their families.

Alice had a particular quality which is rare: she was a good listener, always showing great interest in what others said. That is why right to the end of her life she continued to make and retain friendships with people of all ages.  

In latter years we became real friends; Alice regularly visited us on Sundays for a meal and Scrabble, and when the journey become too strenuous for her, John and I went over to her house most Sundays for tea and a game. My great regret is that during what were to become her last months we were unable to see each other because of Covid-19 and although I rang her frequently her hearing loss made conversations very difficult. It will be a long time before I can get used to the fact that Alice isn’t there on the other end of the phone!

Marlene McAndrew
Marlene McAndrew, Wendy Corum and Alice together at a wedding in 1992

Music

In 1996 I was on the same Holiday Fellowship ‘Singing for Pleasure’ holiday as Alice , at Dovedale. Tutor was Anne Dickens. On the music hall evening we put on a show, where Alice borrowed my outfit for her performance of “I’m Only A Working Man”. Outings included a visit to Chatsworth.
In 2000 we met on another HF holiday in Brecon, this time Opera themed and a rendition of Jerome Kern’s “Showboat”. Evening social activities included folk dancing, which Alice took part in, as with most things, highly enthusiastically!

Elsa Sothern

Old time music hall

Alice was a big fan of old time music hall and (much to the embarrasment of her children) loved to perform. Photos from a 2011 rehearsal at the Sage, Newcastle.

Travel

A recording of Alice recalling a trip in a Trabant with one of her East German friends to visit the iconic Berlin Wall (constructed 1961 demolished November 1989).

Click to listen to Alice talking about the fall of the Berlin wall

Canada and Cuba connections

Alice had an amazing life: 101 years not wasted. The website is a great memorial. It’s fascinating to understand how Alice was repeatedly at history’s doorstep. Am I interpreting the audio correctly? Did she have the rare perspective of English eyes looking from the Eastern Block side the night the Berlin wall came down? I sure wish I had asked her better questions in our few years of friendship.  I met Alice in my role as go-between with an ‘adopted’ family in rural Cuba. She was their loyal and vital friend from the 1990’s until her last months. In our letters, conversations and when she welcomed me into her home I was struck by Alice’s energy, outward focus and sharp mind. I felt I had been treated to just a taste of an intriguing personality who grabbed life by both hands … and danced of course!

Pat Clahane, Canada

Holidays

Visiting friends in Turkey, summer 2014. Photos Zena Sullivan


Old friends

Alice  loved to go to Spain in January and I took her advice on sunshine in winter and went to the same hotel and enjoyed her company , and friends. Her and Mavis were an exuberant pair and led the dancing with laughter and joy. It was Alice’s free dancing that we all loved and joined in with gusto. The other photo was taken at Sky Garden in London and a part of a very pleasant day visit to meet up, have a chat usually about books and politics and memories.I shall miss her but gladly remember the good times.  Gwyneth Corum