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Paddy Fraser obituary


In her lifetime, my mother, Paddy Fraser, who has died aged 94, probably met almost every 20th-century poet of significance writing in English.

She was born Eileen Lucy Andrew (but was known as Paddy from birth) in Leeds, and attended Thoresby high school. She then won an exhibition to read English at St Anne's College, Oxford, where she ran the literary society and met Philip Larkin. After leaving university in 1942 she joined the rapidly expanding Board of Trade, where she had to sequester the factories of clothes manufacturers for war work. She met my father, GS Fraser, the poet and academic, through his sister Jean, who also worked at the Board of Trade, and they married in 1946.

My father became part of a Fitzrovia literary set, writing for the poet and editor Tambimuttu and drinking with friends including Lawrence Durrell. My mother, who had led a relatively sheltered life, wrote in her memoir of life with my father: "I had to get used to people being drunk, aggressively or amorously, and to a whole new vocabulary of swearwords." From 1950 they spent two years in Tokyo, with George as cultural adviser to the UK Liaison Mission, but this was brought to an abrupt end when he had a serious breakdown while on a lecture tour.

She returned to Britain with a young daughter and newborn son, while George slowly recovered his mental health. There then followed six years of Chelsea bohemian life, with fortnightly poetry readings at their flat in Beaufort Street. These began with poets reading Shakespeare or Keats, but soon "people would shyly produce manuscripts from their pockets ... Gradually the flat became a sort of informal poetry centre." The Group – a poetic tribe who included Peter Porter, George MacBeth, Peter Redgrove and Edward Lucie-Smith – would "turn up in force".

My mother combined bringing up three children with late nights in the company of often drunk and always rumbustious poets. She also took a series of jobs (secretary to a Labour MP, writing synopses of newly published novels for MGM) to eke out my father's earnings as a freelance literary writer. As she wrote, she was "trying to run an orderly bourgeois life in a bohemian society". It helped that she was naturally sociable and loved giving parties.

In 1958 they moved to Leicester, where George became a lecturer in English at the university. There followed more than 20 years of much more settled life, with jobs for my mother in teaching and adult education, until George's early death in 1980. She had a lifelong passion for the theatre, sat on the board of the Haymarket theatre in Leicester, and enjoyed visits to Stratford-upon-Avon. Her happy 33 years of marriage were followed by 33 years of widowhood, during which she continued to be engaged with writers (through the Leicester Poetry Society), and had many friends.

It gave her great pleasure in her final weeks to read the reviews of her granddaughter Blanche McIntyre's production of The Seagull. She is survived by me, my sister Kate, my brother George and three granddaughters, Blanche, Marina and Sarah.

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