Obituary of Alice Kate Farmer (schoolmistress and councillor)
Alice Kate Farmer, former headmistress and vice chairman of Malvern Urban District Council, died on 29th December 1944.
The announcement of her death and a lengthy tribute was published in the Malvern Gazette on Saturday January 6th 1945. Here is a transcription:
Public Service for Malvern
The death took place suddenly on Friday (yesterday) week, at Langland, Malvern, of Miss Alice Kate Farmer.
Miss Farmer, who was in her 80th year, was for many years a well known figure in the public life of Malvern. She was a daughter of the late Rev James Farmer, of Lucan House, Ripon, sometime vicar of St Paul's Nottingham, and St Giles, Balderton. She was educated at Clifton High School, and Newnham College Cambridge, and Oxford High Schools.
She came to Malvern in 1901 as headmistress of Langland House School, and on her retirement in 1912 she took up public work.
She was appointed Honorary Secretary of the Malvern Charity Organisation Society and during the 1914 – 1918 war was a member of the Worcestershire Women's War Agricultural Committee, and Chairman of the Malvern National Kitchens Committee.
For some years she was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Malvern Branch of the National Council of Women. She was also Chairman of Workers Ltd, and served for many years on the Executive Committee of the Worcestershire Federation of Women's Institutes. She was Secretary of the Malvern Women's Institute for the first 19 years of its existence and then became President for two years.
In 1920 Miss Farmer was elected to the Malvern Urban District Council as a representative of Trinity Ward and she held that position up to the time of her death. She was highly regarded by members of the Council and succeeded Mr TW Morgan as Vice-Chairman, and was invited to become Chairman but declined.
She was Chairman of the Public Health committee from June 1937, Vice-Chairman of the Public Library Committee, Chairman of the Managers of the Malvern Council School, and was a Governor of Hanley Castle Grammar School, and of the Lyttleton School.
Council tributes to the work which Miss Farmer had done for the Council were paid at the meeting at the Council House on Tuesday. From the chair, Major WJC Kendall referred to her devoted service to the Council and town. Her death was a sad loss to the Council and whole town. She had been a member of the Council for nearly 25 years. She had set an example which ran true to the highest traditions and standards of local government.
Her whole work has been a subtle blending of dignity and humour. She had played a strong and valued part, one which would leave an indelible mark on the district. Her passing would be a great loss to them all.
Mr Layton associating himself with these remarks said he had always found Miss Farmer a good colleague. She would be a loss to the WI, Red Cross, and other institutions. She was a woman who gave all her time to the welfare of the town.
Dr AJ Fairlie-Clarke said as Chairman of the Public Health Committee she had done fine war work almost unknown to the town. More than anything her heart was set on the smaller people, and on the school-children.
Mrs FKR Davis spoke of a personal friendship of more than 40 years.
Mr Edwards said Miss Farmer had absolute honesty of opinion.
Mr WH Grundy speaking as one of the oldest members of the Council, said he considered her one of the best they ever had. She was wonderful for her age. They would miss her more that day and after.
Mr J Bulman, on behalf of the officers, said it was difficult to find words to assess her sterling qualities. Though latterly she became frail, she retained to the end her indomitable courage. They would remember her as a great lady whose passing left the world and the Council bereft of a beloved personality, but enriched by the high quality of her work and character.
By the death of Alice K Farmer Malvern has lost her foremost woman citizen; the cause of progress, both national and international, has lost an active supporter, and a great many of us has lost an irreplaceable friend.
After Miss Farmer gave up her professional work her first rate abilities and the breadth of her interests opened to her many avenues of satisfaction and enjoyment; her sense of duty led her to apprentice herself to the work of the Urban District Council where she was content to make haste slowly, so that it was 20 years before she reached the position of vice-chairman. She had all the qualities that make a good public servant: judgement, initiative, courage, loyalty to colleagues and subordinates, and a well considered generosity.
One of the secrets of her undisputed success in public life was her entire disinterestedness. She could never be suspected of having the smallest axe to grind. In fact, she often suggested others for work she could have done better herself. Possessed of a very quick brain, she schooled herself to patience with slowness in others. These qualities and her general interest in humanity helped her to get much enjoyment from her public life.
It may have come as a surprise to some people to learn that Miss Farmer was in her 80th year. She was in fact 80 years young, not old. She possessed to the full those qualities which Edith Wharton prescribes for those who wish to 'remain alive past the usual date for disintegration'. She was unafraid of change, insatiable intellectual curiosity, interested in big things, and happy in small ways.
Miss Farmer's house and garden expressed her perfectly. They spoke of her impeccable good taste, her love of beauty, and order, her delight in travel and in books and flowers. She was an ideal hostess, having the art of drawing out her guests, so that they began to feel themselves cleverer and ..
Death of Miss A K Farmer
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.. better dressed than they had realised. Her sense of fun and power of mimicry made her a very good companion. (Many members of the SEC will remember her witty reply to the toast of 'The Woman Councillor' as a high water mark of the SEC suppers). And with all her great experience there was to the end something ingenuous and delightfully simple about her so that she could always get pleasure from a new rock plant, or her own or a friend's new hat.
We cannot but mourn her passing with a sense of public and personal loss; but as we recall that small and latterly frail form inhabited by such large gifts and qualities, let us be thankful for the life and example of Alice Kate farmer.
'Nothing is here for tears, nothing to wail; nothing but well and fair; And what may quiet us in life so noble' MMP.
A contributor signing herself one of many writes:- The passing of Miss A K Farmer has left Malvern infinitely the poorer. As a public servant, her work is well known, but may I speak as one of many hundreds whom she has befriended in times of need.
For me personally, unsought twice she made possible a much needed rest, and in another kind of need offered me the shelter of her roof – all with such quite, kindly courtesy that it seemed the most natural thing in the world to accept. One was made to feel an honoured guest.
The service at the Priory on New Year's Day (including the beautiful Christmas carol at the end) was so in keeping with her life of devoted service, her faith and kindliness, that when it was over, coming out into the sunshine, there was a feeling of elation and not depression at this perfect ending to what was indeed a perfect life.
The funeral took place at Malvern Priory on Monday, when there was a large congregation representative of the organisations in which Miss Farmer took a keen interest.
Members of the Council, headed by Major WJC Kendall (Chairman) and Council employees formed a guard of honour at the main door as the cortege passed. The service was conducted by the Rev REC Houghton of St Peter's Hall Oxford and of Hanbury rectory, assisted by the Rev HHM Bartleet (Vicar of the Priory) and the Rev R Daunton-Fear (Vicar of Holy Trinity). Other robed clergy were the Rev FRD Kennedy and Canon O Petit.
The service which was fully choral, included the hymns, 'Blest are the Pure in Heart', and 'There is a Land'. Miss Peddie was at the organ; and before the service played by special request, part of Elgar's Enigma Variations.
The family mourners were: Miss Leather, Mr WG Farmer (brother), Mrs Dean and Mrs Baring-Gould (sisters) and Mrs R Houghton. Those attending were: Major WJC Kendall, Councillors E Layton, J Watkins, JJ Edmonds, Mrs PKR Davis, S Sibbald, Dr Fairlie-Clarke, WH Grundy, CR Lockyer, and T Cooke, of the Malvern Urban District Council; Messrs J Bulman (clerk), W Hodgson Hayes (Treasurer), FK Bown (Deputy Clerk), Major MJ Quirke (MOH), F Layton (Deputy Treasurer), H Whitwham (Sanitary Engineer), NJ Wilson (Gas Distribution Superintendent) and Henry Hillyard (former official).
Others present were: Miss Severn Burrow (representing Workers Ltd), Mrs Gorke, Mrs Radford, Mrs EJ Roper, Mrs Thornton, Mrs Clancey, Mrs Pedley, Mrs Hill, Mrs AH Davis and Mrs S Stevens (County Federation Women's Institutes), Miss AM Day and Miss Ann Keble (WVS), Miss C Luscombe (representing Pickersleigh Close), Mrs WH Acock, Miss Doughty, Mrs Stowell, Miss L Darby and Miss Mizen (Malvern WI), Mrs EH Bowman (Wyche WI), Mr ED Bowman (Chamber of Commerce), Mrs Osbourne (Malvern Maternity and Child Welfare Association), Mr and Mrs WH Sutton and Miss Owen Thomas (Great Malvern Council), Mrs WJ Povey (Manager Malvern Council School), Mr and Mrs J Stone (Malvern District Education Committee), Capt Roy Limbert (Malvern Festival Theatre), Mr HE Doughty (Malvern COS), Mr F Hooper (council gardener), Mr RP Haden Cope (Governors, Lyttelton School), Lt Col and Mrs G Mackie, Mr and Mrs Weston Priestley, Miss Jane Hill, Mr E Scott (Lloyds Bank), Mr JW Lambert, Mrs Batlest, and Miss Lambert, Miss FE Clarke, Mr Hanson, Mrs E Varley, Mrs Morshead, Mrs Harvey and the Misses Harvey, Miss Weatherhead (also representing Miss Montgomery), Mr AJ Evans, the Mrs KS and OM Woods, Miss Morson, Miss Mitchell, Miss Welch, Misses A and F Bubb. Miss Church, Miss Steynor, Miss Cooper, Mr and Mrs AS Clarke, Miss EM Newth, Mrs Arthur Dance, Mr and Mrs V H Moody (Malvern School of Art), Mr CS Philpotts, Miss Dalglish, Mrs Jones, Mrs Bulman, Miss Burrow (also representing Mr RWE Burrow), Miss Mullender, Miss Gwyther, Mrs Ledger, Miss K Grundy, Mr TA Ledger, Mrs Whitwam, Mrs Wilesmith, Mrs Wookey, Miss P Browning, Miss E Smithson, Miss Gascoigne, Mrs Cartland, Miss Price, Mrs JE Trapnell, and Miss AE Morgan(Citizens' Advice Bureau), Miss Owen, Miss Scudamore, Miss Woodyatt, Miss SE Morris and Miss Mooney.
Cremation took place afterwards at Cheltenham.
The funeral arrangements were carried out by Messrs Gwynn and Sons Ltd.
The chief mourner was Miss Eva Hazlehurst Leather of Langland, Malvern, who was Alice Farmer's business partner.
The funeral service was conducted by Rev Ralph Edward Cunliffe Houghton, who was the husband of Eva's niece Mary Howard Dean.
William Gray Farmer was Alice's half brother by Rev James Farmer's second wife. Mrs Gladys Margaret Dean, and Mrs Agatha Mary Baring Gould were Alice's half sisters.
Roy Limbert who attended the funeral was one of the founders of the Malvern Drama Festival. Mrs WJ Povey was the widow of Rev William James Povey died 1936, who was a founder and the first minister of Malvern Baptist Church.
Cheltenham Cemetery had opened in 1864 and its crematorium in 1938; click to read notes by Brian Torode. It was not until April 1960 that Astwood crematorium opened at Worcester.
Source: obituary transcribed from microfilm, courtesy of Great Malvern Library and the Malvern Gazette
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Last updated 24th August 2016