|ROOKS RISE LIKE TEA-LEAVES|
Our friend Marguerite Elliott died on Saturday; she was seventy-five.
Just before we went to Seville, she tripped over a loose paving stone, fell in the street and broke her hip. When we went to see her in Sunderland General Hospital, she seemed fine, sitting up in bed and already looking forward to getting back home. Five weeks later, she was dead.
Marguerite was an artist and later, a poet but she was an artist whose public profile in no way matched the enormous depth of her talent. Born and brought up in the Durham mining village of Easington where husband, baby and a short, hard life were the best a skinny young woman like Marguerite could hope for, she showed unusual artistic promise as a little girl. Her fashion-conscious mother cherished her daughter’s gift and taught her drawing and textiles. Remarkably, she won a place at the RCA and moved to London at the age of eighteen and later, to Galashiels, to study textiles, tapestry weaving and tweed making.
Obviously, we didn’t know Marguerite; we weren’t born then but it must have been quite astonishing for this tiny child from the North-east coalfields to be taking classes at RCA. I have known one or two people in my life who have trained at the RCA and almost all of them went on to become senior partners in major architectural practices, living in Twickenham and driving one-year old BMW’s. It is just incredible that she not only got a place there but found the cojones to even apply. You have to be able to draw with the precision of Piranesi just to have your CV considered.
Later still, she studied in Switzerland but if there had ever been a market for quality tapestry, it had dried up by the time she returned home, and she went in to teaching. Decades of young students fell under the spell of her extraordinary talent.
Every Christmas, we would receive a hand-drawn and illustrated Christmas card. Birthdays were similarly rewarded with a crayon sketch of the fields and coastline around Hawthorn Dene, where she was perhaps happiest, walking in the woods.
We have kept these cards, all in her beautiful handwriting and the watercolours and the priceless tapestries and rugs she gave us. We will cherish her legacy and remember her with great affection.
Marguerite Elliott 1937-2014