Katharine Mary Jones was born on 3rd August, 1924, in Netherton near
Dudley, in what is now the West Midlands.
As I said earlier, some of you have known her as Katharine, and the fact that
she was also known as Paddy deserves some explanation.
‘Paddy the next best thing’ was a bit of a catchphrase in the twenties, when
Paddy was born. It was the title of a romantic comedy novel about a young
Irish girl, published in 1902, made into a very successful stage play that ran
in London and on Broadway, and also a film, in the twenties - it was about a
tomboyish Irish girl whose father had really wanted a son. Paddy was
certainly NOT brought up as a boy, but possibly her father had indeed
hoped for a son and gave her that nick-name - which stuck.
I remember Sue’s surprise, and telling me that I was honoured, when at our
first meeting I was told I should call her Paddy.
Her father, Harry, was a history teacher, and a committed socialist and
communist sympathiser. Paddy grew up to follow her father both
professionally and in her political beliefs.
Paddy had a younger brother, John, who went on to become a successful
accountant, and an older sister, Margaret, who went on to become a civil
servant - and slightly eccentric.
Paddy actually grew up in Birkenhead, then in the county of Cheshire.
On leaving school, Paddy went to Liverpool University to study electrical
engineering, where she was the only female student in her year. This was in
1942. It was here that she met another engineering student, Frank Dyson.
Life is not always straightforward - their paths were to separate and cross
again as years went by.
In 1946 Paddy married a doctor, Dennis, and they had two children, Steve
and Clair, but they were to part and divorce in 1954.
Paddy and Frank were married in 1955, and Sue was born in 1956, followed
by Paul in 1959.
Frank would like to tell us more about those early years -
Frank was working for Ford in Dagenham in the fifties, and the family lived
in Theydon Bois. By this time Paddy had become a high school mathematics
teacher, for a short time at the local boys’ secondary modern school,
subsequently at Loughton County High School for Girls.
While the family lived in Theydon Bois, Frank revelled in the professional
challenges provided by Ford Europe, but based in Cologne and becoming a
weekly commuter. He then was head-hunted by Whitbread, and
subsequently by British Aerospace, working in the north of England and
also in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Paddy enjoyed and successfully
managed her job, her family, and a whole variety of other interests during
It was only when all the children had left home that Paddy retired from
Steve, Sue and Paul have written this biography and tribute to their mother
and her indomitable spirit:
Mother, because that is how I knew her for most of her life, was an
amazing person. She was highly intelligent and articulate,
multitalented, inspirational, had incredible stamina and a huge
work ethic, being seemingly inexhaustible; she was a multi-tasker,
brave and humorous and had a sense of humour; she was a tower of
strength and always there when you needed her, but was a very
private person and found it difficult to express her own true
emotions - but was very emotional and easily moved to tears.
We were brought up in the village of Theydon Bois in Essex,
immediately adjacent to Epping Forest.
One of my earliest memories is the village cricket club, of which
Frank was a key member and subsequently Captain. Paddy was by
default involved in the tea rota; this was not really ‘her sort of
thing’ and she ultimately rebelled, but not without leaving her
legacy. The team were complaining about the state of the square,
which was in need of repair at an estimated cost of £300. Paddy
suggested that they organised a fete to raise money - which they
duly did, and this was to become an annual affair.
Yes, Paddy was an organiser. She was the inaugurator of Loughton
High School Gymkhana - more than just a gymkhana - a four ring
She was the organiser of the one and only infamous, never to be
forgotten, but hideous, school ski trip in Austria - that happened to
coincide with the local boy’s school in the same awful hotel, where
we had green soup every day and terrible ski instruction. This was
the first and last time that Paddy and Frank ever skied.
She was a co-founder of the Foresters Riding Club, became secretary,
Chairman, organiser of events and training sessions. She became
integrally involved with the Essex North Pony Club (after I was at
university), ultimately becoming a highly popular District
Commissioner. After the move north, Paddy became secretary of
the Bolton by Bowland Gardening Club and secretary of the Pendle
Forest and Craven Hunt Hunter Trials, and was also involved with
Skipton Horse Trials.
When I was President of the British Equine Veterinary Association
and was organising our annual international scientific Congress in
1997 at Harrogate, Paddy volunteered for the sandwich
subcommittee. However good the scientific programme is, people
always complain if the food isn’t right, as had happened at the
previous Congress - so getting the right box lunch was a serious
challenge! She also, together with Frank, organised the ‘alternative’
alternative programme for partners of delegates - walking in the
beautiful Yorkshire Dales.
At home, when we were children, she was an organiser of party
games and treasure hunts, with amazing clues.
But to be a mother, school teacher and involve herself in so many
other activities, Paddy needed help. We had Mrs Donald and Rose
Grant, who helped in the house, and we also had au pair girls - first
Françoise from France and then an Austrian, Sigrid; and then
Françoise came back! She stayed much longer than initially planned
and was to become a life-long family friend.
Katharine and Frank have attended many family festivities in
France; Françoise, her husband Jean-Paul and their children (now
all grown up) - have all visited several times and Paul’s family
have also spent time with them in France. Françoise says that she
adored Katharine, who was like a mother to her. I have vivid
memories of punting on the Cam with my Mother and Lionel, one of
Françoise’ sons, and how perilously close Lionel came to falling
into the water.
Our mother was hugely supportive of all our endeavours and was
to become very proud of our achievements.
Sue is an equine orthopaedic specialist working at the Animal
Health Trust in Newmarket; Paul is Professor of Molecular
Microbiology at Swansea University, and after initially working in
the copper-mining industry in Zambia, Steve has made his home
there and now runs his own successful business.
It was Paddy that took on the challenge - sometimes hazardous - of
supervising the practice, when learning to drive, of all three of us.
She also helped us all with our school work. Steve freely admits
that she was crucial in helping him immediately prior to his Applied
Maths A-level exam, and thus responsible for the A grade that he
certainly wouldn’t have got without her assistance - and hence
entry to Cambridge University.
Paddy played the piano and encouraged me to play the clarinet,
and both Steve and Paul to sing in the church choir (but was
otherwise never to be seen in church herself!). She strongly
encouraged us to study what are now called STEM subjects, with
the idea that vocational degrees have inherent greater value -
foresight for which we are eternally grateful.
Paddy was a natural teacher and took great pleasure from her job.
She made maths fun and understandable and was hugely popular
with pupils and colleagues alike. A former pupil, who I still have
contact with, described her as ‘a formidable woman, who stood no
nonsense, but she was also very professional, very fair and had a
good sense of humour’.
Katharine was not just a cook - she had the aspirations of a chef
and loved having dinner parties; she was always trying new recipes.
In the 1960s she subscribed to a Cordon Bleu cookery course; she
enjoyed poring over recipe books - especially for luscious chocolate
My sister-in-law Antje’s first meal in Britain was at Carters one
Christmas, when Paul introduced her to the family. French people
had warned her that she would eat badly, very badly, in Britain . . .
yet it was the most delicious Christmas dinner she had ever tasted . .
. much better than at any French table. Even day to day Mother was
an experimenter - the cookery evolved. But the marmalade recipe -
her Grandmother’s - never changed and is still going strong. Every
year enough marmalade was made not only for Paddy and Frank,
but also for Paul and myself as well; Frank did the 2011 batch
under Paddy’s supervision; John took over in 2012!
Mother was a seamstress - she made all sorts of clothes, and
curtains too. When I was invited to a London film premier in about
1975, Mother created a beautiful full-length black velvet cloak
which I still sometimes use today. She also knitted wonderful
sweaters for us all, really complicated patterns - until osteoarthritis
took over her hands.
Mother had that elusive quality ‘style’. She had huge dress sense
and always wanted to be smart, and to the very last days of her life
enjoyed nice clothes. She always had a sylph-like figure, despite the
consumption of huge amounts of butter, sugar, cheese, full-fat milk
and cream, and of course wine . . . and chocolates. She loved deserts
so much that, when out to dinner in France with Paul and his
family in 2010, she said she wished she could just eat two deserts
instead of any other course . . . and so she did!
She recently had a direct debit payment of over £20 a month to a
‘chocolate club’ for a regular supply of boxes of chocolates, which
she consumed with relish!
When Paul and Sue graduated from university Paddy finally agreed
to move north, and she and Frank moved to Carters, a farmhouse
near the village of Bolton-by-Bowland in Lancashire, where a new
life was to start - and for some reason she elected to be known by
her ‘real’ name, Katharine. She helped to remodel Carters, for
instance sewing all the curtains and plundering the local antiques
galleries for period furniture.
Paddy then very enthusiastically transformed its gardens and
sizeable vegetable plot - her first serious adventure into horticulture.
Tomato growing resulted in tomato plant surpluses being delivered
to both Paul and Sue. With advice from a local farmer she invested
in a small flock of sheep, and became a semi-expert shepherdess for
several years, rewarded by EU subsidies. She subsequently pursued
her new horticultural bent working part-time at a local nursery.
Paddy became a valued member of the Citizens Advice Bureau team
in Clitheroe, and became passionate about defending people at
various tribunals, and she learnt a lot about the law. She was also
Parish Clerk of the Waddington Parish Council.
Paddy never shared Frank’s passion for golf (hand-eye coordination
was not her strong point), but she had been known to endure a few
golfing holidays. Paddy was a somewhat reluctant attender of golf
club social functions, but seemed surprised that Frank was not
always the most enthusiastic reciprocal attender of hunt social
functions! However, it seemed to us that they generally had a lot of
fun! They made a very elegant couple on the dance floor, being a
very polished pair of ballroom dancers.
Paddy has always shared Frank’s passion for sport, although more
as a spectator than a player, and especially enjoyed rugby and
Paddy got huge enjoyment from attending men’s quarter finals day
at Wimbledon a few years ago, a surprise present for a special
wedding anniversary. In recent years Paddy and Frank travelled to
South Africa to follow the England rugby tour, and of course Paddy
always followed horse sports.
There were, naturally, also trips to Zambia to visit Steve and his
family - which included quite serious adventures involving armed
In later years travel consisted more of river and sea cruises. At one
stage after a rather tortuous return journey Paddy swore that she
was going to tear up her passport and never travel abroad again -
but she relented and gave in to her and Frank’s wishes to see more of
the world and even last year they had a memorable trip to enjoy a
cruise off the coast of Croatia.
Paddy and Frank were great walkers, firstly in the Lake District
and then in Europe, taking Inn Travel and Headwater holidays,
walking from place to place. Then there was the ultimate trek in
Nepal with some local friends and where they met some new, and
now long-term, friends - the ‘Nepal Gang.’
I have to admit that navigation was not always her strongest point
- I remember after my first year working in the USA, Paddy and
Frank came to visit. In Vermont, Mother went striding ahead on a
long circular walk and managed to miss the end point and was
ultimately found, as darkness fell, by a huge boulder a third of the
way round the circuit for the second time. And this was just a few
days after Frank had walked off the wrong side of a hill in Virginia!
It brings to mind ‘The importance of being Earnest’ - the loss of one
parent might be described as unfortunate, but two is careless!
Paddy was a political activist throughout her life; she campaigned
for the Liberals, then the SDP, had a flirtation with Labour, and
ultimately supported the Liberal Democrats, but I’m not sure how
she would vote today.
Paddy was a great defender of human rights, and in her late
seventies marched in London against the Iraq war. She was quite
dogmatic, but also contradictory. She believed in greater equality,
and proposed an end to public schools, but then sent her two sons
for private education, maintaining that the state schools weren’t up
to much - although this issue remains open to debate!
Mother always wanted to engage her mind and the Guardian
crossword was a suitable challenge. This often involved delving
into a dictionary and then getting distracted by other interesting
words. Her sister Margaret always came to stay for at least one
week each year, and there was a secret battle for the crossword
which Margaret could usually finish much more quickly, much to
Paddy’s chagrin. Paddy also loved playing Scrabble and, as one
might expect, was highly competitive.
Katharine had learned German at school and maintained her skills,
practicing with her German daughter in law - for whom she knitted
the most magnificently enormous green jumper one Christmas!!
Paddy also learnt Greek and French, practicing her French with
visitors such as Françoise, Jean-Paul and their son Lionel. As she
was not used to Lionel’s southern French accent, Paddy would
correct his pronunciation, much to his amusement.
At our rather unorthodox wedding in 1999 John and I became aware
of one of Paddy’s hidden talents, as a speech maker. Instead of a
‘Best Man’ we had seven ‘Better People’, and Mother chose to speak
first, with no notes. She gave the ‘Late To’ speech - I was described
as late to be born, late to choose a university subject, late to get
married. She was brilliant - fluent, eloquent, witty and of course
also beautifully dressed.
I remember saying at the time that all daughters eventually turn
into their mothers, and that if that happened to Sue, that was fine
with me. I haven’t changed my mind.
My mother was brave, could be stubborn and had a high pain
threshold - fortunately, because she was ‘The Queen of Fractures’ -
fracturing her tibia twice, her radius twice, her neck (she spotted this
one when the doctor said she had sprained her neck, whereas she
had tried to ignore the previous radial fracture - and didn’t seek an
x-ray until about four weeks later), her femur twice, her pelvis, and
her spine twice, secondary to osteoporosis.
Animals were always part of Paddy’s life. She was a long-time dog
owner and avid walker - there was Trotter (the beagle), Gideon (the
Springer spaniel), Ben (the impossible Springer spaniel) and Danny
and Jasper (the Labradors).
Mother had ridden a little as a child, but took up riding again when
I had developed a passion and was spending all my waking hours
at the riding school just up the road, Crystalbrook.
She acquired her first horse, Bruno, who was actually a bit of a
common plod, and got a taste for fast rides, joining the ten o’clock
Sunday Crystalbrook Epping Forest rides. Bruno was replaced by
Tiffany (by now we had two stables in the back garden) - the grey
escapee who trampled Frank’s lawn; and then Taurus, the Arab.
Pleasure riding led to riding club competitions, and then ultimately
hunting. Riding was how most of her early fractures were sustained
- the first tibia fracture when jumping a log in Epping Forest and
Tiffany slipped and landed on her. So there I was, aged ten, with my
pony, a loose horse, a prostrate Mother - and we were half a mile
from the nearest road . . .
I owe a huge debt to my Mother, who provided tremendous support
in all my equestrian endeavours - she funded the ponies, she was the
driver to training and competitions, and I must say was always
very competitive on my behalf. If I finished second she wanted to
know why I hadn’t gone faster! We spent many very happy hours
together. When I went to university she still joined me to go to
competitions, and always brought a ‘care package’ - for example, a
casserole and a cake to be sure that I ate alright!
I almost forgot the finger fractures which is a story so typical of my
mother. She had driven to Cambridge from Theydon Bois early one
Sunday morning, to meet me to go to Mill Lodge Equestrian Centre
near Wisbech for a warm-up competition and the Grade C regional
final for qualification for the Horse of the Year Show. She decided to
top up the Landrover oil before we left Cambridge - but dropped the
bonnet on her fingers. The fingers were macerated and probably
fractured - so instead of taking off with McGinty we went to
Addenbrookes hospital. After appropriate treatment we returned to
the horse - drove to Wisbech - missed the warm up class - but won
the qualifier for the HOYS, beating all the professionals - and then
of course she had to drive back to Theydon Bois. But she was so
proud of what we achieved.
After moving north Katharine took up hunting and made many
long-term friends at the Pendle Forest and Craven Hunt - some
larger than life characters. Shirley Hindle became a very special
friend who coincidentally had, together with her late husband
Harry, examined me for my Pony Club A test many years
During the summer Mother continued to come to competitions - if in
the south she would drive the four and a half hours - arrive on
Friday night - share the tack cleaning etc. - we would leave early on
Saturday - we would walk the course, she would hold the horse -
we shared the ups and downs - she hopefully cheered at the
prizegiving -and then we would have supper with the crossword
(she always had at least ten stuffed in her handbag from either the
Guardian or the Observer) - clean tack early the next day - and then
she drove back north . . .
We had annual trips Badminton - watching the dressage, walking
the course, encouraging each other to spend money at the trade
stands - mostly on clothes - having dinners (sometimes shared with
Shirley and Harry); and there was also the ‘handover of tomato
In 1990 she persuaded Frank to go with her to the World Equestrian
Games in Stockholm where Kinvarra, one of my former horses, was
Unfortunately a hunting fall in 1991 resulted in a neck fracture
which was ultimately to have significant implications for the rest of
Katharine’s life - but two major surgeries enabled her to do very
many things that less active and determined people would never
The move to Market Weston was challenging. The north was where
all Paddy and Frank’s friends were, but Carters, a lovely farmhouse,
was in a very remote location and a long way from any family
members. An attractive, newly-built bungalow with a small garden
seemed the perfect house to downsize to, less than five minutes walk
from our house. Paddy was determined to do the five hour drive
With typical determination the garden at Bowland was soon
transformed and, with the addition of a ‘mail-order greenhouse’,
tomato production was soon restored.
Sadly, not long after arrival in Market Weston, Paddy’s mobility
began to decline, and this made getting out and about to meet
people impractical. The telephone became an important link to
close friends. But there is no doubt that as osteoporosis got a grip
and resulted in a number of fractures, providing help and support
was only possible with Paddy and Frank being physically so close
to John and myself.
Frank learnt new skills - cooking, washing, ironing to name but a
few - and took on a role of carer. Paddy found being dependent on
help extraordinarily frustrating but, with typical bravery and
stubbornness, did everything she could to maintain some mobility,
which sadly resulted in some unfortunate falls.
However, an advantage of Bowland was the relatively frequent
visits of family members - bringing all of us together much more
than previously, including the grandchildren Holly and Hannah,
Mwape, Charles and Phillip,- and resulting in lots and lots of
Katharine learnt how to use the internet, but sadly this became
increasingly difficult as she lost the dexterity of her hands, because
of a combination of neurological problems and arthritis. She loved
shopping from catalogues and advertisements in the papers and
colour supplements - the delivery of packages of seeds, ‘plugs’ of
bedding plants, and clothes and yet more catalogues was a daily
feature at Bowland.
She was an avid reader and had recently adapted to using a Kindle.
Paddy enjoyed the theatre - she should have gone to see Jeremy
Hardy at the Bury Theatre just a week before she died. In recent
years she watched more and more television - not surprisingly,
Master Chef was a favourite - as well (of course) as all the sport.
We all remember Paddy very fondly at her eightieth birthday
celebration. She looked gorgeous all in white, and very bohemian
with wonderful Mexican jewellery. While it is sad that we cannot
celebrate her ninetieth birthday, we can celebrate an extraordinary
and unique life that brought so much happiness to so many people.