|Katharine Moore in 1989|
Una Katharine Yeo was born in 1898 in Reigate, Surrey. Her father, a rigorous Presbyterian, worked in London in insurance. In her memoir Queen Victoria is very ill (1988) Katharine summarises the religious atmosphere in which she was brought up. 'God and Jesus . . . roughly corresponded to my father and mother. God and my father were all-powerful and all-knowing: they gave orders and had to be obeyed; sometimes they shouted. My father could not shout so loudly as God when it thundered, but he had a good try. Jesus and my mother never shouted, and they loved me whatever I did, though they too liked to be obeyed.'
|Lady Margaret Hall today|
Her degree equipped Katharine for her future work as a teacher and writer and a short interlude after university, working in the Lady Margaret Hall Settlement in Lambeth, was an eyeopener about poverty for a middle-class girl. Very shortly afterwards, however, Katharine's time was to be fully taken up by different responsibilities. In 1922, she married Dr Harold Moore, a widower twenty years her senior with three young girls, and soon she herself had twins, Jane and Christopher, for whom she wrote her first children's book, Moog, in 1936, with illustrations by Jane. This was followed by a series of educational books for children. Her marriage was very happy and her husband - later a CBE and the first president of the Institution of Metallurgists - continued the supportive tradition of the men in her family.
|Walthamstow Hall school|
In 1947 Katharine and Harold's son Christopher, then 23, was drowned in a holiday accident. Katharine spoke of the terrible loss as dividing her life in two, but she strove for, and ultimately attained, the goal of turning suffering to good account, gaining a depth of understanding of other people's tragedies. She was very busy with her family but always found time for teaching, reading and writing - the life of the mind balanced with domestic life.
Katharine Moore's first book for adult readers, influenced by her Quakerism, was an anthology, The Spirit of Tolerance, commissioned by Victor Gollancz in 1964. The titles and subjects of Katharine's later non-fiction books reflect her preoccupation with women's need for independence and her religious development - Cordial Relations: The Maiden Aunt In Fact And Fiction (1966); Victorian Wives (1974); and She For God: Aspects Of Women And Christianity (1978).
As she grew older Katharine continued to develop her writing and thinking. She published her first novel,Summer at the Haven (1983), set in an old people's home with an old lady as its central character, at the age of 85 and received the Authors' Club Silver Quill Award for the most promising first novel of 1984. Her unusual subject came from her own experience - old age and its unacknowledged fears, pleasures and trials - and another two novels on the same theme followed, The Lotus House (1984) and Moving House (1986). Critics were enthusiastic, comparing her to Elizabeth Gaskell, and she gained a devoted following among readers of all ages. After her three full-length novels, she produced a witty and humane collection of short stories, Six Gentle Criminals (1990), and an exercise in historical recreation, A Particular Glory (1994) the fictional biography of Damaris, daughter of John Wesley's friend and mentor Vincent Perronet, vicar of Shoreham, Kent, where Katharine lived.
Katharine Moore remained always involved with life, family, friends, Quakers and the life of the mind, living on until 2001 when she died at the age of 103. "I never had much time for old people," she said in her later years, "so, perhaps, this long life is God teaching me a lesson." Her whole life was a lesson to those who read her books, were inspired by her teaching or knew her as a friend and I am grateful to have been one of that number.