ithell colquhoun magician born of nature
© All texts copyright Richard Shillitoe 2015-16  All artworks copyright the estate of the artist.

biography

the streams of st bride This extract gives the flavour of the piece: Janet was married to a dipsomaniac, Ian, who disappeared after their legal separation. She had lived with Teddy Sibbs and had three children by him. He had an affair with Mrs Prowse, who became pregnant; Enoch, her former husband, took her back, but his hair turned white in one night. He brought up the son, David, as his own. During the war, Teddy went to Germany with the Forestry Commission and lived with a German woman; Ian sometimes came to see Janet. After the war Teddy told Janet that the German woman had gone to South America; in fact she was living in Hastings with her three children (by her husband, who had divorced her) and teaching at a school. Teddy had a job at a brewery in her neighbourhood. He had married her in order to simplify the problem of bringing her to England. He returned to Janet, to co-operate with her in working her holding, but was always going to Hastings on holidays. Janet gave him a blank cheque to buy some bulls but he spent most of the money he drew on hire-purchase furniture for the German woman. Finally, he admitted the situation to Janet; she went to see her at Hastings, but got no satisfaction. Soon she broke with Teddy, got no money from him. Later she had an affair with John Mullen, after a quarrel. (1) And on for 1500 words, detailing the ever-changing relationships between the various characters. One’s immediate response is exhaustion at their energy and fecundity - and of Colquhoun’s imagination. Then one begins to recognise some of the names and to realise that the relationships described are real and the participants are, as far as they can be identified (which is nearly all of them), members of the artistic community at Lamorna in the post WWII years, the time when Colquhoun was making regular visits to Vow Cave, her cottage in the valley. Several of the individuals also appear in “The Living Stones” in the chapter that deals with the wood cutters, although in that book she gives them false names. Several also appear in Denys Val Baker’s account of life among Cornwall’s artistic community, “The Sea’s in the Kitchen”.  The piece exists only in manuscript and note form. Why did she write it? Clues can be found in some tables attached to the manuscript. They show that Colquhoun was attempting to describe certain of the individuals in terms of roles or ‘types’: Betty Paynter        The Siren Veronica Sibthorp     The Witch or Vampire Anne Law                 The Matriarch Janet Gibbs        The Doormat Ray Perry                 The Moon-calf Stovepipe Lambourn  The Ram Marlow Moss        The Death-hags Ruth Adams        The Victim She also made efforts to link some of these roles with mythological figures (such as the Gorgon; Succuba; Centaur, Lamia;) or with paths of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and with the planets and constellations, but her efforts are neither complete nor consistent. In charting and categorising the protagonists mating behaviours she may have been attempting to do with human relationships what she did in other essays with birds, mythical creatures, dance moves and, of course, occult correspondences. Colquhoun’s lifelong urge to order, classify and make connections is evident throughout the body of her work; there is more about this on the page ordering the cosmos. For some reason she did not complete her analysis, but,for those who have read the manuscript, here is the key to the cast of characters. John Armstrong (1893-1973), painter. He married his first wife, Benita Jaeger in 1932. They had one son and one daughter. By 1938 he had remarried, to the critic Veronica Sibthorp. Between 1947 and 1955 they lived at Oriental Cottage in the Lamorna Valley. In 1956 he married his third wife Annette Sylvia (formerly Heaton) and moved to London. Jeanne Day was a close friend of Albert and Rosa Reuss for many years. She made a large collection of Albert’s work. Francis [Frankie] Freeth, painter, wood carver, potter. Active from 1940, he lived in Oriental Cottage in the Lamorna Valley. Janet Gibbs is referred to as ‘Annis’ in “The Living Stones”. After splitting up with Ray Perry, she bought his plot of land and built a cabin. Gluck (Hannah Gluckstein, 1895-1978), painter. Lived in Lamorna after art school training in London. She bought Bolton House in Hampstead towards the end of the 1920’s and sold its associated studio to Colquhoun in 1949. Betty John; she was the wife of Edwin John, the son of artist Augustus John. Edwin inherited the Paris studio of his aunt, Gwen John. After the couple separated, Betty moved to Mousehole.  ‘Stovepipe’ Lambourn. Probably the Mousehole painter George Lambourn (1900-1977). Anne Law. Second wife of Denys Law. Denys Law (1907-1981), painter. Married and had two children. During World War II he remarried and, after the War, moved to Lamorna with his second wife, Ann. His sister was the landlady of The Wink, a public house in the village. Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937), Italian inventor. He was in his 50’s when he began his relationship with Betty Paynter. Miss Moss (1889-1958). Born Marjorie, Moss was a constructivist artist who addopted a masculine appearance and the name Marlow. A.H. Nijhoff was a Dutch writer, married to the poet Martinus Nijhoff. Moss liven and worked in Lamorna from the start of WWII until her death. She was a member of the British branch of Groupe Espace. Robert Morton Nance (1873-1959) was a leading authority on the Cornish language, nautical archaeology, and joint founder of the Old Cornwall Society. He studied art in Britain and France and was also a painter and craftsman. Betty Paynter (1906-1980): daughter of Colonel Paynter, the landowner at Lamorna. As a fifteen year old school girl she became engaged to Marconi who was carrying out his pioneering radio transmissions from the Lizard. The relationship came to an end and in 1937 she married Olaff Poulson, a Dane. They had a daughter Sonia Paynter, born in 1940. Patrick Marnham’s book “Wild Mary” has a lot of information about Betty Paynter and life at Boskenna. In 1947 Betty married a crooked solicitor Paul Jewell Hill. Two years later Col. Paynter died and Betty inherited his extensive estates. In the eight years that followed, Betty and Hill, by dint of gambling, bad management, profligacy and high living, managed to run through Betty's inheritance. In 1956 everything was sold and the pair then went to live in very modest accommodation in Penzance. Ray Perry was one of a group of conscientious objectors seeking a simple, back to nature, life style. He was one of the original ’woodchoppers’ and appears as ‘Alec’ in “The Living Stones”. Biddy (Bridget) Picard (1922- ), Slade-trained painter, and also a potter. During the war she married Ray Perry and lived in Lamorna in a gypsy caravan. Later she lived in Mousehole with Bill Picard. She had one boy, Peter Perry, and two daughters, one being Greta Perry. She is referred to as ‘Tilly’ in “The Living Stones”. Bill Picard (d. 2007), potter. Married Biddy, who was previously married to one of the woodchoppers. Together, they set up the Mousehole Pottery which ran from 1953 until 1992. He is referred to as ‘Diccon’ in “The Living Stones”. Olaff Poulsen. The first husband of Betty Paynter. He died during the war in circumstances that are disputed. There are references to him in “Wild Mary”. Dod (Doris) Procter (1890-1972), painter. Married Ernest, who died suddenly in 1935. She subsequently moved to Zennor. Albert Reuss (1889-1978), painter. Born in Budapest. He and his wife Rosa became Jewish refugees and were given asylum in Britain. They moved to Cornwall in 1948. Anthony Richards (1924- ) was a co-founder, with Leonard Missen, of the Penzance Pottery in the 1950’s. Anthony appears regularly in “The Sea’s in the Kitchen”. His first wife, Dorothy, bore him two children. His second, a French woman, is named as Marie-Louise in Colquhoun’s text, but as Christianne in Val Baker’s book. Alf Riddles: real name Alf Knowles. He is referred to as ‘Walt’ in “The Living Stones” and crops up throughout “The Sea’s in the Kitchen”. Veronica Sibthorp, critic. The second wife of John Armstrong and one-time lover of the poet Dylan Thomas. George Strauss (1901–1993), politician. Long serving Labour MP for Lambeth and, in 1937, one of the founders of “The Tribune”, the radical weekly magazine. In 1968 he introduced to parliament the bill that abolished theatre censorship. His long-term companion was Benita Armstrong, first wife of John Armstrong. They married in 1987 after the death of his wife Patricia. Notes. 1. The ms is at TGA 929/2/1/54. The cataloguer has misread the title as “The Stream of the Bride”.