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Tributes to Muriel Higgins

Muriel Fairbairn was born in Ayr on 9th September 1939. This meant that she would qualify for a pension on 9/9/1999, which amused her greatly.

She got a first-class degree in French and German from the University of St Andrews in 1962.

In 1962-3 she studied applied linguistics and EFL teaching methods at the University of Leeds. There she met and married John Higgins.

There followed 23 years of a peripatetic career taking in Thailand (where Ana was born), Norway (where Imogen was born), The USA, Tanzania, Turkey, Egypt and Yugoslavia.

From 1986 we had seven years in Bristol, and then twelve in Stirling, during which we lost our beloved daughter Ana to cancer.

John retired and we moved to Shaftesbury in 2005. There Muriel extended her range of craft skills. For nearly five years she resisted mentally and physically the effects of oesophageal cancer, about which she said: "Trust a language teacher to get a disease which is almost impossible to spell and almost impossible to pronounce" which sums up her attitude to it.

She died on 18 November 2020, holding the hands of her husband, daughter and grand-daughters.


Seona Anderson, friend Jane Arnold, celebrant Sheena Ballingal and others Jennifer and Graham Barnes, cousins Kathleen Bates, friend
Lorna Brockett, friend Catriona and Robert Brown, friends Heather Bruce, friend Helen Clark, friend Peta Constable, friend
Tim and Lynne Cockburn, friends Annabel Dickson, friend Hilary Duggua, friend Janet Fry, old friend Evelyn Groesser, childhood friend
Steve and Margaret Hale, friends Line Harsheim, friend David Hartley-Mitchell, friend Ian and Margaret Hay-Campbell, friends John Higgins, husband
Sarah Hiorns, friend Dorothy Hoerler, childhood friend Helen and Roy Howat, friends Nan Howe, oldest friend Tim Hunt, publisher
Laura Lambie, friend Pauline Macaulay, friend Rona and Neil Maccallum, second cousins Imogen Makower, daughter Carolyn Marshall, cousin
Carolyn and Chris Maud, friends Hilary and Peter Meech, friends Maggie Moss, friend Carolyn Nandy, friend Anne Pankhurst, friend
Dilys and Steve Parkinson, friends Kate Pickard, friend Clare Sharp, grand-daughter's teacher Michael and Jill Speed, friends Lesley and John Stuttard, friends
John Taylor, friend Marc Twynholm, friend of Ana Goodith White, friend Henry Wickham, friend

John Higgins, husband
The music you heard as we came in was the chorale prelude to Sleepers Wake by Bach, and the reason I chose it was that it was what was playing as Muriel’s father Archie Fairbairn led her up the aisle to marry me just under 58 years ago.
We were not stay-at-homes. Our working life started in Thailand where Ana was born, then Norway where Imogen joined the family, then The USA, Tanzania, Turkey, Thailand again, Egypt and Yugoslavia. Then we had seven years in Bristol, twelve in Stirling, during which we lost Ana to cancer, and since 2005 fifteen years in Shaftesbury.
The first diagnosis of Muriel’s oesophageal cancer came almost five years ago. “Trust a language teacher” she said “to get a disease which is almost impossible to pronounce and almost impossible to spell.” And that was the spirit she approached it in. There have been ups and downs for us, but in the end there was enough love and loyalty to ensure that we were happier people and better people together than we would have been separately.
You will hear other people today telling you about Muriel’s creativity and energy, her range of talents. But for me the one that mattered most was her skills as a communicator. She made friends, she kept friends, she kept up with friends. I know that is what I will now miss, is seeing a familiar face at a gathering, and not being able to pull Muriel aside and whisper “Remind me, what’s her husband’s name?” or “When did we first meet them?” or “What are their children called?” I will have to do the best I can, but it will be second best. Meanwhile, thank you Muriel for doing that for me and so much else. Thank you.

Imogen Makower, daughter
When my sister died in 1997, I could contemplate no bigger loss than my own. Ana was the sun of my life.
Clementine was just one. She had two mothers for that special year. One who fed her, changed her clothes, made sure she slept and one who constantly played with her, threw her in the air, gave her silly hairstyles, made her try champagne and made us all laugh.
I had no comprehension then of the loss of a child for a mother. Some years later I began to understand what it must have been like for my parents to lose Ana. In acknowledgement now of this, I would like to read one of the poems that my mother wrote in 1997 following Ana’s death.

Ways to be
In the morning, rain or shine
I don my cloak of grief.
Sometimes it’s there for all to see
And sometimes no-one knows it’s there.
Without it could I still be me?
Are there other ways to be?
We can’t rewrite the past, or time.
Things can never be the same.

Again now, things can never be the same.
My beloved friend Claire reminded me recently of a time when we were all in our kitchen and Clementine was a tiny baby. We speculated where her life would take her. Ana thought she looked strong and could be a rower - maybe not! Bumble looked down at Clementine and said ‘perhaps she will be a barrister’. This very afternoon by zoom Clementine will be called to the bar. My mother wanted to be here today but I know she was deeply proud as she was of all three grandchildren and will be there in spirit this afternoon as we share Clementine’s covid-secure call to the bar.
Bumble, you leave a huge hole in all our lives. Thank you for being Ana’s and my mother.

Sheena Ballingal and others, school friends
Thinking of you all, from some of Muriel's friends of Ayr Academy
Catriona, Jean R., Sheena, Kathleen, Alexa, Jean W.

Nan Howe, oldest and closest friend
Muriel, or Meedle to me, was my oldest, best and dearest friend. We met when she arrived at my school in Glasgow in 1954. We were both only children, both weekly boarders and both disappointed not to be sent to the proper kind of boarding school that we read about in stories. We did our best to make boarding as “proper” as we could by getting up to the kind of pranks we read of and by not always behaving as well as polite young ladies in Kelvinside were meant to. Our reports said we were “too casual“ and we were probably not challenged enough academically. As Meedle observed in her memoir, each mother probably thought that her daughter was led astray by her new friend, but we spent many weekends in each other’s homes and I always felt welcome at Meedle’s as I hope she did at mine.
After school off we went to St Andrews where we shared a room for the first two years. There our friendship group widened and our interests diverged. Basically Meedle worked and I played. And she of course did brilliantly.
After St Andrews Meedle was in Leeds and I in Oxford. Very soon she met John and clearly fell head-over-heels. I was summoned to inspect and I found them deeply smitten: serenading each other with French poetry. I was most impressed though completely out of my depth! In a very few months they were engaged and I was beaten to the altar when they married in 1962. By the next year, now both married, we all lived in Cambridge before the Higginses set off on their overseas adventures. I visited them in Istanbul and later travelled to Moscow where we were the guests of the very kind Hay-Campbells in their embassy flat. How I loved having such an exotic friend! For the many years since then we have met from time to time and have spoken regularly in long phone calls with some lively debate and much laughter.
I will miss Meedle enormously: her brightness, her quirkiness and her kindness. But everywhere I look in my home I am reminded of her. I have a beautiful quilt, several cushions, rugs, tassels and earrings, my stair has bunting made for some royal occasion (but not with either Union Jacks or Saltires) and on my kitchen wall is a photo of us winning the three-legged race in 1955. We had such good fun!

Janet Fry, old friend
My abiding memory of Muriel is her DELIGHT — how she looked up from something she was examining and enthused — with delight.

Carolyn Marshall, cousin
I have very happy memories of times shared when we were growing up and many lovely photographs. At my 80th she reminded me that she was the person who had known me longest. The three of us had a pleasant time last year when we stayed in my static caravan at Swainby. I would have liked to meet up again but Covid-19 put paid to any plans for this year.

Jennifer and Graham Barnes, cousins
We remember our walking days with Muriel. In Scotland with John in their motor home at Blairgowrie, also Glen Coe, doing part of the West Highland Way and walking along the edge of the White Cliffs of Dover on the Isle of Wight. Happy Days.
Hard to lose a Wife, Mother and Grandmother, and to say goodbye, leaving you all with very special memories

Dorothy Hoerler, childhood neighbour and friend
A lovely idea to celebrate her life on St. Andrew's Day.
The silver bowl in the photo was a gift from Muriel ages ago as a memento of her Mother’s house in Monument Road – so that’s an indirect Ayr connection.

Evelyn Groesser, childhood neighbour and friend
I shall be with you in thought tomorrow with happy memories of our joint childhood and youth, and latterly the common bond with Patchwork. Muriel had a long and interesting life with ups and downs. She put up a great fight against that horrible disease cancer, and lost, like so any others. We have to be grateful that she had such a long life, that her suffering is at an end and she is now at peace. Muriel is the first of the Ewenfield "gang" to go, it is pity we did not manage to get together in our 80th year like we wanted to.

Kathleen Bates, friend
Our friendship went back to primary school. What a brilliant mind Muriel had, and was so creative. It was always a pleasure to chat with her.

Annabel Dickson, childhood friend
Muriel and I met in the 1950s at Ayr Pony Club, shortly before we went to St Andrews. We were in the same residence for 3 years. We had to be in by 11 p.m. and no men were allowed in our rooms except on Sunday afternoons with prior permission, rather different from nowadays.
We didn't have much contact while you worked abroad for the British Council. When my daughter graduated from what was then Bristol Poly, we stayed with you in your house not far from the Clifton Suspension Bridge. I remember visiting you in your house in Stirling right opposite the castle. Muriel and I played ping-pong in the garage, and she beat me by 15 points. She loved doing the Times cryptic crossword. I loved your holiday home by the beach in Seamill.
Sometimes Muriel and I didn't see each other for ages but our friendship nevertheless continued. She recently sent me a cushion she made. On my clock key is a tassel she made for me. I always remember her making things.

Maggie Moss, university friend
She and I met in October 1957. She seemed (and was) so clever, more serious (correctly so) about her work than I, at least at the beginning. She was the only person in that intake to finish with a First in French and German lang. and lit.
Later, after your marriage, daughters appeared born in exotic places. We kept in touch and then, what pleasure when you came to Stirling.
Then, in 1999, our first grandchild was expected and I mentioned that I thought I would make a small patchwork quilt. Muriel said that it could not possibly consist only of hexagons (my standard) and she would design one for me. That was the first of five, and she becasme my patchwork guru. I think it was when grandchild 4 was due that, oh horrors, you moved to Dorset, so I had to come to Thomas Hardy Drive for a quilting consultation. Her kindness, energy and enthusiasm were endless. Three carehomes in the Stirling area have benefitted from the "fiddlemuffs" which Muriel sent me. The grandchildren's quilts have been taken to Ethiopia, Belgium, Scotland and England, and one lives over the back of my dining chair. The seaside hanging pockets containing mixed marine treasures hangs in the conservatory, much admired.

Lorna Brockett, university friend
I met Muriel as a student at St Andrews. She was a brilliant student – I remember her winning the class medal in logic and metaphysics, and getting a first in French and German at a time when firsts were less commonly awarded – but she carried her success lightly. She was outgoing, full of life, enthusiastic, with wide interests and a gift for friendship.
We lost touch for many years and reconnected a few years ago through a mutual friend, so I met John for the first time and Muriel again. She still had the same enthusiasm and zest for life with so many interests and gifts, including crafts and embroidery. When we met again, she was studying classical Greek. When Muriel told me about her cancer diagnosis, it was in a matter of fact way, and she carried on with her many interests and contacts as long as possible. With characteristic thoughtfulness, she offered me a piece of quilting and some face coverings she had made, and sent me an email on her final entry into hospital.
Muriel must have enriched so many lives, as she enriched mine, and all of us who knew her will treasure her memory as a gift. My heart goes out to John and the family, of whom she was so proud and whom she loved so much.

Helen Clark, university friend
We knew each other since meeting in our first year at St. Andrew's, and I now treasure the lovely hand-crafted beads - and face-masks - that she sent me in the last few months. Somehow she managed to keep being creative all this time.

Michael and Jill Speed, friends from Norway days
It was in 1967 that we first met Muriel, who with John and their 3-year-old daughter, a playmate for our 4-year-old, moved into Eiksveien 3, just outside Oslo, Norway. They moved into the flat across the landing from us in the ‘oppgang’ leading to 4 flats. Every fourth week each family had to see to the maintenance and cleaning of the stairs, landings, and basement laundry area. For us foreigners, this came as a bit of a shock.
Muriel and John introduced us to boardgames. Monopoly was the favourite, and I can remember very well that we never won. An abiding memory of a winter Sunday morning was Muriel putting on her ‘langren’ skis and heading up into the forest, doing what the locals did. This love of new experiences and her zest for life were typical of Muriel.
They moved away from Norway and so did we, and our paths didn’t cross again for about 25 years when we moved to England to find that John and Muriel were living in Stirling. Our meetings were infrequent – mainly due to the distance.
Muriel’s warmth and outgoing personality made these meetings something to look forward to; to hear of her family, her new hobbies and projects, all of which were designed, created to bring pleasure to others. It was a sad day when they ended.
A few months ago Muriel posted us one of her hand-made gifts. It is a quilted cot blanket for “your first great grandchild” – a baby boy due in five months’ time. A typically thoughtful gift.

Pauline Macaulay, friend
Our friendship goes back to 1970 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, when Muriel and John’s daughters, Anna and Imogen, attended my nursery school. Our paths have crossed several times, in Cambridge, London, and more recently in the West Country. What we particularly enjoyed together was our love of fabric and stitching. Muriel was absorbed with the challenge of the maths of patchwork and making unusual blocks. Her energetic whistling up all manner of patchwork items showed that she was not troubled by the weight of perfection. Muriel’s output was huge. I think I can safely say that Muriel’s book New Designs for Machine Patchwork published in 1981, was one of the first to explore the magic of Islamic decoration translating them into manageable tessellating patchwork patterns. It sits on my bookshelf. In later years she created often for good causes. Her 2017 booklets made from A4 sheets with easy to follow instructions for bobble necklaces, or feelies/fiddlemuffs or twiddlemitts expressed her concern for those is care homes whose fingers like fiddling or twiddling. She was way ahead in understanding the therapeutic and calming qualities of creating things from nothing much – now widely encouraged during the current pandemic.
Muriel has been stoic in the face of a cruel condition. I am deeply sorry that she had to endure so much. I will miss her crisp, witty messages on email. She carried her talents and knowledge of linguistics quietly. Her determination to finish a crossword puzzle was tenacious. What a character.
Muriel, rest in peace with Anna. I will miss you.

Anne Pankhurst, friend
She has been fighting her illness so valiantly and in her emails there has been a sense of her typical ironic sense of humour right up to the last one I received. After nearly 50 years of friendship I shall miss her very much. We met in Cambridge in 1971, and shared many splendid days and evenings together with John, Richard and all our children. In the words of the friend who introduced us, we got on 'like a house on fire'. The warm glow of knowing her will not disappear.
She was so clever at so many things - I will treasure the memory of her design and sewing work for Plantlife, her ability to stitch anything she wanted to, her originality and sheer inventiveness. Her linguistic ability, and her energy were incredible, Very few people have so many interests pursued to such a high level. My memories of both sadness and joy will be rich and plentiful, as I know they will be for you. She spoke often of her joy in the success of Imogen's children - now grown up - and with great pride and love.

Dilys and Steve Parkinson, friends
We will both really miss her warm friendship over the 45 years we have known each other. I will always remember her kindness to me during the Cambridge Linguistics year, and really valued our continuing contact over the years, sharing happy and sad times together. Her support and understanding meant so much to us.
There are so many mementoes of Muriel around our house: patchwork books, crocheted biscuits, bobble necklaces ... She always gave so much energy and enthusiasm to everything she did and was very generous with her time and gifts. I often think of Muriel when I am sewing, and memories of her will be stitched into my patchwork and quilting.

Tim and Lynne Cockburn, friends from Istanbul days
When her last note mentioned the number of memento parcels that Muriel had sent out I was not surprised because she had an enormous capacity for friendship. In more than forty years it is easy to lose friends along the many moves and changes in life but Muriel ensured that she hung on to us. Like her friendships her enthusiasm for craft and for language was unbounded, bringing up daughters in Egypt she even found time to research and master patchwork.
In Muriel these enthusiasms were not mere flashes. She saw things through and got them done, whether it was nurturing friends, publishing books or learning Greek, she lived a full life and will be missed but not forgotten.”

Heather Bruce, friend from Bangkok days
She has been such a good friend, so I have lots of happy memories, as I am sure you all have. I treasure my quilt.

Tim Hunt, publisher at Longman
I remember her first when I was a young publisher in Longman English. It was in the heady days of language labs, and I was at a loss what to do as I had been assigned the publishing for this category of language materials. Muriel came to the rescue. No ‘mimicry – memorisation’ for her. Uniquely in my experience she was able to write audio exercises which were both meaningful and fun. She contributed this skill to The British Council English Language Units. She wrote all the tape material for Nucleus General Science, a ground breaking series for science and technology students needing English for their studies.
Muriel is famous in our family for the things she made and gave us, especially the small patchwork quilt which is still in use. One favourite lambkin was named Muriel.

Margaret Hay-Campbell, friend from Egypt days
Muriel was a very special person. She was so full of energy and enthusiasm for new creative outlets for her talents. We are proud to have the original quilt used on the cover of the Batsford patchwork book. In fact the quilt, made for Jonathan, has now been passed on to him to become a family heirloom. I had to repair a little of it so took the opportunity to put her initials on the back and I even managed to get a photocopy of the book jacket to go with it!
One of our happiest memories is of the visit that Muriel and Nan made to Moscow in winter 1996. She got so much out of her time there and made the most of the cultural and craft opportunities that were on offer. We managed to organise a visit to the home of a brilliant patchwork specialist – that must have been through someone at the British Council – and she really enjoyed seeing the woman’s amazing work.
And then there was the time she came over to Norway – the second visit when she came on her own and we took her up to Sjusjøen to go skiing. Her enthusiasm for skiing was most commendable, only spoilt by her getting snow-blindness towards the end of the visit. Returning to Norway clearly meant a lot to her and we were both very impressed with how she hadn’t forgotten how to ski.
Whenever we came back from abroad Muriel was always very welcoming and a visit to see you in Epping, Bristol, Sterling and finally in Shaftesbury was always a highlight of our time on leave. Her quick wit and sharp intelligence put those of us with slower brains in the shade! I appreciated her writing skills – not simply as a writer of text books for Longmans but the occasional short story as well. We have a copy of her story about Jonathan getting on to the wrong bus at the age of two and disappearing up Kensington Church Street with me racing after him! That incident is now part of family history and the subsequent story is a good read and has become part of the saga as well.

Ian Hay-Campbell, friend from Egypt days
As one of our most longstanding friends, there are many memories to share. Muriel had a wonderfully inquiring mind, always keen to expand her knowledge and alert for new experiences. The inquiring mind was also quite a decisive one: you needed to be able to defend your corner if your opinions differed. But there was no superiority, it was simply the thirst for knowledge.
Her craft skills were varied and amazing. Various craft activities came and went. One I remember all too clearly from a visit to Bucknell was the plastic bag craze. I’m can’t now recollect what it was designed to achieve (if I ever knew) but the noise created by Muriel sitting at our kitchen table, holding court and knitting away had to be heard to be believed. I was quite relieved when time was called on that pursuit.
Meals out together were always memorable. Muriel may not have ever wanted to eat very much but she always needed to know about the food on the menu. Her way to experience this was to encourage her fellow diners to all choose different dishes so that she might then have a small taste of what everyone had ordered. With her English language teaching background, Muriel had a sharp awareness of others’ writing styles and habits. It is rare even now that I fail to scan something I have written in case I have inadvertently inserted any unnecessary exclamation marks. I can remember being (gently) rebuked several times for what she considered their excessive use!

Carolyn Nandy, friend
Muriel and I first met in a Bristol writing class. She read so well, she wrote so well, and we got on well. Our paths didn't cross that much through the years but we kept in touch by phone and visits. Had you lived nearer, the bridge-playing visits would have been much more numerous.
I love craft work and have dabbled in patchwork and crochet, but WOW, Muriel was a non-stop EXPERT. It is lovely to have her gifted examples around our home and our grandchildren's home. I especially love and use some of her beautiful wool necklaces.
Muriel really loved her grandchildren. I find a charm in the fact that from birth through to college I have heard all about them. Alas we never actually met. That they are old enough to remember her is a great gift.

Peta Constable, old friend
Muriel’s last wish expressed to me was that she lived long enough to see Trump defeated. Well, she made it and I hope she was able to know she had done so and enjoy the moment. We all rejoiced with her that day. I have very fond memories of your house in Stirling near the castle and my whole visit to around 2000, not least because you invited Nicolas over to meet up with me again. That indeed eventually led to (un?)intended consequences. Then I think you visited Nicolas and me twice at least in Ilkley. It was good we were able to keep up the friendships and contact even across geographical distance and then illness.
Muriel was so proud of her grandchildren and I know Anna’s loss was a terrible blow and grief to you all. I shan’t forget a feisty and talented woman any time soon (no one to reminisce about pony books with).

Catriona and Robert Brown, Stirling friends
We count ourselves very lucky to have met you both when you were living here in Stirling. We will always remember Muriel as a bright, talented and creative lady and a very good friend. We will treasure her craft-work, especially her lovely "bobble" necklaces. We remember her trying to teach us how to make them - good fun, but ours were not nearly as good as hers!

David Hartley-Mitchell, friend of Ana and family friend
David sent a recently taken photo of some New Zealand sunflowers for Muriel.

Helen Howat, friend and neighbour at Sea Mill
In the late 1990s, my brother Roy and I were delighted to meet Muriel and John, who had bought the house adjacent to our Dad’s on the Ayrshire coast, where Muriel loved the view over the sea to the Isle of Arran.
Our friendship was instant, and since that time, when we shared dinners and interests including golf, music and art, we have appreciated meeting in Stirling, Kew, London and Weybridge. In summer last year, Philip and I enjoyed Muriel and John’s hospitality in Shaftesbury and the treats of a Greek taverna there, Muriel having enthusiastically embraced that language too.
Full of energy and spontaneity, Muriel also excelled in a multitude of handicraft achievements, some of which will be a personal and lasting reminder of a delightful lady.
and from Roy Howat
John and Muriel were marvellous and much-loved neighbours in Seamill, and it’s made me very happy to be able to keep up with you since then, including Schubertian interactions with John.

Sarah Hiorns, family friend
Muriel was always the epitome of positivity, and from the off always spoke about her diagnosis in an almost ‘matter-of-fact’ way, which I am sure carried her through some tough times with the ability to manage to get the most out of life for longer than most. The fact that not that long ago she was making masks and keeping up with email bulletins was so impressive. I am sure there were difficult times too, but I know she braved these with minimal fuss I suspect.
I have such vivid memories of our warm and laughter-filled get-togethers over the years, all the way back to childhood play dates in Thailand, and her extraordinary creativity and craftsmanship with her textile art-work.

Hilary Duggua, friend
Muriel was a character, a one-off. I feel privileged to have known her and to have spent many happy hours on the golf course and chatting over a cup of tea. Her love of handcrafts and enthusiasm for her many and varied projects was infectious.
We also shared a love of Norway and skiing and first met through a local club for Nordic skiing in Scotland. It was Muriel who got me to join the Bridge of Allan Golf Club where I am still a member.
Muriel will live on in our memories. There are lots of them to treasure.

Goodith White, friend and colleague from Stirling days
Talented, bright and brave! That's my tribute!!!

Seona Anderson, friend from Plantlife and onwards
I will miss so many things about Muriel, her friendship, intelligence, artistic talents and her joy at the world. I have many memories to treasure: all the times we spent together on the Patchwork Meadow, her visits to Scotland and our visit to the Scythians exhibition at the BM in 2017. Launching into learning ancient Greek as a response to the splendour of that exhibition is one of the many qualities that made Muriel unique. She inspires me to keep seeking beauty and knowledge all my life.
"What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others." (Pericles)

Rona and Neil Maccallum, second cousins
Neil and I both loved to see you both. We found Muriel to be really interesting and talented with all her different creative skills, and also so brave about her illness and generous with gifts she had made - she very kindly sent us a lovely blue quilt after your visit to Monreith and I have it hanging over the back of the chair I usually sit in there. It was nice that she had holidayed in the area as a child. She also fairly recently sent me two face masks she had made.
There had been a very close bond between her family and my father’s so that he was named Archibald Fairbairn after ‘Uncle Arch’.

Marc Twynholm, close friend of Ana
On receiving a copy of "You Never Asked"

I wanted to tell her and I guess you now, that I can hear Ana through her writing - just the odd turn of phrase - it has made me cry in delight, literally cry, much to the shock (in as much as 'are you ok?') of my fiancee. I never knew Ana was Anna for example and she never knew me as Mark always Marc. Subtle things but never needed to be explained. I feel that I have let time slip by so recklessly and should have somehow been in touch many years earlier. It took me a long time to come to terms with Ana's death, I loved her so much and my photo together with her at graduation is a treasured memory.
I guess the book was in preparation of this moment and a need to commit to paper her life before it was too late, and bless her for doing so, I can see her being competitive at school and with the languages but picturing her tormenting teachers is beyond my imagination, it's difficult to imagine, but then we were all children once.

Carolyn and Chris Maud, friends and neighbours in Shaftesbury
She was always such a generous and kind friend over the last fifteen years. I shall miss her enormously, particularly our catch-up chats in the kitchen here where Muriel would bring her latest creation - quilts usually - for me to see. She was so very talented and industrious and yet was interested in what we were doing too. I really relished having such a wonderful friend and kindred spirit just round the corner.

Hilary and Peter Meech, friends
Over the last six years since we moved south, we came to know her as a doughty battler against cancer who lacked any trace of self-pity, qualities that greatly impressed us both.
We shall remember Muriel as a lively enthusiastic personality, a loving wife, mother, grandmother and friend, and as someone with a wide cultural hinterland. Her creative talents, especially the design and making of quilts, were hugely impressive. The wall-hanging she generously gave us this year is mounted on a wall in our bedroom We already look at it and treasure it every day. Now we shall think of Muriel with even more gratitude and affection.

Lesley and John Stuttard, friends
I so enjoyed Muriel's company in the few years we have been in Shaftesbury. I loved the fact that she wanted to grow and harvest. She was always interesting to talk to and had the ability to engage and enthuse and had such wide-ranging interests from quilting to the Classics to the family.
She has left us with some wonderful memories, but also woolly hedgehogs, one of whom sits on my desk and others are in the care of my grandchildren, a lovely quilt hanging and, of course, a mask. So many reminders of someone special who had such a zest for life and learning.

Clare Sharp, grand-daughter's teacher and recent friend
It was a great privilege and pleasure to meet Muriel and to get to know her through the Greek Summer School. I will long remember her quiet and tenacious enthusiasm for Greek, as well as her straightforward stoicism in the face of illness and her valiant determination not to let it get in the way of other things in her life.
As I write, I am looking across to the exquisite piece of Scythian inspired embroidery which she sent me last month, and the little frog which she made for me while helping with costumes – for a production of Aristophanes’ Frogs - at the Greek Summer School in 2019 is currently sitting on my desk in London. It is in London too that I have a small patchwork quilt which she gave me, again at Bryanston, in 2018. Thus my acquaintance with Muriel has been punctuated by these kind and generous material gifts, which are beautiful and very fitting reminders of her and of two things in particular which we shared – a love of classical Greek and a love of sewing.
It was also, of course, a particular pleasure for me to hear, through Muriel, news of Clementine and to see the pride and joy of a grandparent in her granddaughter.

Laura Lambie, financial adviser and friend
I did enjoy our meetings. She was very generous, giving me such lovely zebra-themed gifts. She was a lovely lady who will be sorely missed.

John Taylor, authority on Greek and recent friend
Only a few weeks ago she was in touch about her study of Greek with undimmed enthusiasm, and I have on my desk a mask she made (as well as a frog on the kitchen table). It was a great pleasure to welcome you both to Bryanston for the Greek plays, and Muriel's help with the costumes was greatly appreciated by Clare Sharp and the students. We have very fond memories of her.

Henry Wickham, recent friend
I had the enormous pleasure of getting to know Muriel in recent years, as she learned and developed her Greek and we worked through weekly lessons. What a great student she was! So keen to learn - and to show and use what she knew. She was an incredible example and an absolute delight to know. Though I knew her for all too short a time, I will miss her.

Line Harsheim, recent friend
I feel the I have known Muriel in almost 40 years. My husband gave me her patchwork book for Christmas in 1981, and that started my patchwork passion. Four years ago, I found her on the net and little did we know then that we would become such good friends. After I 'met' her, I started thinking: 'I wonder what Muriel will think of this quilt?' So I sent her pictures and she had always a nice comment to everything I showed her. I wanted to show her my fabric, my flowers, my garden and my cats. I knew she would be very enthusiastic about everything. I knew that she was very sick, and I think she was very brave.

Steve and Margaret Hale, recent friends
She was so knowledgeable and thoughtful. We will miss her greatly. We loved playing bridge with you. You taught us a lot.

Kate Pickard, recent friend
She was a wonderful lady, brilliant designer and maker of quilts.

Jane Arnold, celebrant
We may only be a small gathering today but everyone here loved Muriel dearly, she was such an important part of your lives and your family. Many more friends and family will be thinking of Muriel this morning, sending their love and support to you and remembering everything that Muriel meant to them.
Muriel was born on the 9th of September in 1939 in Ayr, and remained a true Scot in many ways for all of her life. She was kind and generous but much against waste, not liking lights being left on in empty rooms and hating to throw things away in case they might someday turn out to be useful. Muriel was clever and well read; she graduated from St Andrews and became a teacher.
She wrote text books on grammar and composition, and was the author of one of the famous Batsford Guides – on Patchwork. You all will know and most probably own several examples of her various craft projects.
It has been said that we enter this life carrying a torch and it is our duty to pass on its light throughout our lives. Muriel was a gifted teacher. That was her torch - and she passed on the light of her learning to so many students - and she lit up the lives of everyone who was lucky enough to know her.
I picked a posy from my garden for Muriel today. I didn’t expect to find much in flower but I was delighted to find this one perfect rose. I have also added a few sprigs of Rosemary - the Herb of Remembrance, which I shall place here today in honour of all those who love and remember Muriel but who cannot be with us at her ceremony today.
John has chosen this next piece of music – again by Bach Bist du bei mir because Muriel loved baroque music and because she started learning classical Greek three years ago. (The aria in the original opera is addressed not to God but to Diomedes, a Greek hero of the Trojan War.)
The words translate as
If you are with me, then I will go gladly unto death and to my rest.
Ah, how pleasing were my end,
If your dear hands then shut my faithful eyes!

Site created by John Higgins, last updated 2 July, 2024.