Thursday, October 22, 2020

The Baroness Hemingford 1937-2020

 _. Jill Paton Walsh, who died 18 October, 2020, aged 83, was a novelist ranging from children’s stories to Dorothy Sayers mysteries, and wife, for only a month, of the 3rd Baron Hemingford.

Her novel Knowledge of Angels was turned down by 19 British publishers, but the Booker Prize judges thought differently and shortlisted it.

She was born Gillian Bliss, in North Finchley, 29 April, 1937, the oldest of four children of John Llewellyn Bliss, an engineer and pioneering television cameraman, and his wife Patricia (Patsy).  

At Oxford she met Antony Paton Walsh, whom she married in 1961. 

 The journalist Jan Moir once observed that her no-nonsense “leader of the local Brownie pack” appearance belied a “volcanic love-life”. In the 1970s she fell deeply in love with John Rowe Townsend, but refused to leave her husband for some years until her younger daughter had turned 18.

She and Townsend finally married in 2004 after her first husband’s death. She was devastated when Townsend died in 2014, but found renewed happiness with the journalist and peer Dennis Nicholas [Nick] Herbert, the 3rd Baron Hemingford [born 25 July 1934], Deputy Chief Executive of Westminster Press, 1992-95 [Editorial Director, 1974-92]. The couple broadcast their nuptials last month, on YouTube, with family members around the world attending virtually via Zoom on a big screen.

Jill Paton Walsh, who was appointed CBE in 1996, is survived by her husband and the son and two daughters of her first marriage.


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