Forest of Dean & Wye Valley

Obituary: WENDY CORUM – a free spirit

In Obiturary on March 13, 2013 at 12:59 pm

Alison Rennie remembers an old friend

I only knew Wendy for the last third of her eventful life, but she often told me of earlier times. Her family were strong supporters of the co-operative movement and were Communists. Wendy joined the Communist Party early in her life, but when the party split she changed her allegiance to the Ecology Party, now the Green Party. She studied at Art College in Cambridge during the war and worked in a munitions factory. After the war she took a teachers’ training course and taught in London for many years. Her colleagues report that she was a good and enthusiastic teacher, especially in arithmetic – a subject that she had always found difficult, so she was able to understand her pupils’ problems!

She also studied music at evening class and joined the Workers’ Music Association. She attended their summer schools at Wortley Hall in Yorkshire every year. When she retired she decided to devote her time to composing music, but she had many other interests.

She joined CND and Friends of the Earth whilst in London and when she moved to the Forest of Dean she joined the local groups and took an active part in marches and demonstrations, painted posters, wrote letters to the papers and collected signatures for petitions. I first met her when she was collecting signatures for a CND petition to stop cruise missiles. While we were talking, I mentioned that I had just started learning Esperanto. Wendy was immediately interested. During the First World War her father had been in prison for being a conscientious objector, and two of his fellow prisoners were Fenner Brockway and Bertrand Russell. Fenner Brockway was an enthusiastic Esperantist, and told Alfred Corum about the principals and purpose of the language. So Wendy was quite keen to learn it – and we agreed that she would learn Esperanto and I would join CND.

As soon as she had learned enough, Wendy undertook a tour of Europe, staying with Esperantists who welcomed her into their homes. Several of them later came to stay with her in Ruspidge. She also put up some of my Esperanto pen-friends when I was living in a mobile home with no room for visitors.

We went to many esperanto functions, and Wendy was also able to join the Esperanto Choir. In the Forest she joined LETS (Local Exchange Trading Scheme), earning her currency by giving piano and singing lessons, and for about a year she was on the Ruspidge and Soudley Parish Council. She also supported many charities such as the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, Compassion in World Farming, the RSPB and the Woodland Trust. And for the sake of the birds in her garden, she gave up keeping cats. She did her own washing and cooking to the very end, and went foraging in the woods for edible fungi, showing me where to find St. George’s mushrooms in the Spring.

She joined “Forest of Dean Against the Cuts” at its second meeting, but failing health soon prevented her from attending meetings. As she approached her 89th birthday she became ill, but the doctor would not send her to hospital because he suspected she had a virus. Hospitals do not like to admit people with viruses. But the day after her birthday she was rushed to Cheltenham General Hospital’s emergency surgery unit with a blockage in her intestine. She was by now too frail for them to operate, and she died in hospital with her family around her to the end.

A well-filled and useful life has drawn to a close. I feel sure that her last wishes would be that we play her music and look after the planet and the people and creatures who live on it – as she always tried to do.

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