Remembering Patricia

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Patricia Honychurch (21 September 1925 – 20 June 2019)

Janet Higbie, Peter Hulme, Lisa Paravisini, Polly Pattullo

When meeting Patricia, one thing we were all immediately made aware of was her extraordinary memory, especially for dates.  She seemed to have instant recall of every birth, marriage, and death on Dominica during her lifetime, and she had an equally detailed recollection of all the significant liaisons.  Some might call that gossip, but for researchers like us it was gold-dust.  Since she combined that precision with a warm and generous nature, she became a delightful and welcoming friend to us over many years.  Our research on Phyllis Shand Allfrey, Jean Rhys, and Eugenia Charles would have been much poorer, and much less enjoyable, without her.

Patricia was born in Manchester to Lennox Pelham Napier and his wife Elma, née Gordon Cumming.  In 1932 the family, including Patricia’s younger brother Michael and their half-sister Daphne, settled in Dominica at Calibishie.  Lennox and Elma both served as elected representatives – Elma as the first woman to sit in a West Indian legislature – and their home, Pointe Baptiste, received Jean Rhys, Patrick Leigh Fermor, Somerset Maugham, and Noël Coward amon its guests.  Elma wrote two well-regarded novels and three memoirs.  The typescript of the last of these, Black and White Sands, about her life in Dominica, Patricia carefully tended until it found its publisher, Papillote Press, in 2009.

Patricia married Edward Lancelot (Ted) Honychurch in 1951 and they had two children, Lennox (the historian of Dominica) and Sara, before divorcing in 1970.  From 1981 she lived at D’Auchamps, part of the old Shawford Estate, near Trafalgar in the Roseau Valley, where she helped raise her grand-daughters, Petrea and Marica.  She lived just long enough to know her great grand-daughters, Luna and Ella.

It was here at D’Auchamps that we knew her best, taking tea and cucumber sandwiches on the veranda with its view of the waterfalls across the Roseau Valley, her beloved dogs by her side, talking of books and people, unravelling chronologies of what happened when and untangling the complex relationships of Dominican family trees.  She was unshockable and non-judgmental.  Then, once we’d written something, her eagle eye would spot inaccuracies, typos, and grammatical infelicities with unparalleled sharpness.

In later years Patricia showed remarkable resilience, living alone at D’Auchamps where she slept with doors and windows open and unlocked, enduring the discomforts and deprivations of Hurricane Maria calm and clear-eyed.  Complaining was not part of her indomitable spirit.  Her mobility was impaired in her final years and she was lovingly cared for by Lennox and Sara; but her mind remained as sharp as ever.  She was 93 when she died last summer.  She is buried in her garden.

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4 thoughts on “Remembering Patricia

  1. Thanks Lisa. I’ve just forwarded to L and S. They will be pleased. It all came together beautifully. PPx


  2. I stayed at the Bedsit cottage for my first visit to Dominica in 1999 and I fell in love with Dominica, D’Auchamps, and of course Mrs. Honychurch. Mrs. Honychurch was kind enough to allow me to return several times even though she was no longer renting the cottage for guests. She was a wonderful lady and I am so sad to hear of her passing.

  3. I am so sad to hear of Mrs Honychurch passing. She was a wonderfully kind lady with an extensive knowledge of Dominica. She was thoughtful and kind to me upon my first visit to Dominica, shortly after my own mother died when I was but 40 years old. She helped us plan our day with adventures.
    In my earliest visits to Dominica she would stroll around her garden with us and show us the various plants. I always would bring her books to read when I came to Dominica. She was a very quick reader, and loved good stories. She was unflappable!
    We talked of her mother’s book, “Black and White Sands” which gave me many smiles, as I had been to Dominica at least 15 times. I often made plans to visit her even when I stayed in the north at her brothers small cottage at Pointe Baptiste. She often let me stay with her even when she was not officially renting.
    I was so upset when the Hurricane hit Dominica and there was no contact with the various
    friends I made on the Island. I am older now by far, but the magic that Mrs Honychurch and her family opened up for me on my visits, will forever live in my heart.
    She helped me to see that there really are other places on this earth, where people are kind and non judgmental. Where there is a magic to life that I cannot quite explain.
    In my time I spent with her and her family I had my first experience of feeling the vastness of the universe and just how small I am, and how special we are on this planet “amidst the innumerable stars”.
    Anthony E. Campbell MD

  4. Thank you for sharing this eulogy. It came to me as a great shock, as I was completely unaware. I knew Mrs. Honychurch personally due to her association with my step-mum, Miss Maude. I also know Lennox and Sara equally well. May her soul rest in eternal peace. She was, like her children, very unassuming. Dominica’s cultural heritage is very rich, so many stories that will perhaps would have been never be told if it were not for the efforts of persons such as you. Thanks again for this piece.

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