KATH HARRINGTON (d.2004)
Kath Harrington died in March . She was a cornerstone of The Questors and a regular contributor to Questopics. To attempt to list her seventy year contribution to The Quest would be impossible. Instead we have left it to three of her closest friends to share a few memories of her.
I had the good fortune to meet darling Kath on my very first visit to The Questors as an active member. She gave me a tremendous welcome and got me immediately, well and truly involved. I have so many fun memories of time spent with her, but those with Questor-connections largely centre around the old workshop. in the tin-hut days. It was not the pleasantest of environments. In winter, freezing cold and damp and at all times, disgustingly smelly [on account of the large pot of shellac-based glue that was forever brewing on the hob]. The Henry V shield fiasco was enacted here, in what we called 'the hell hole'.
One of the items on the prop-list simply stated, 'A dozen medieval shields'. Kath devised a way of shaping them out of several piles of thick wire, bound together, then, covering them with multi-layers of hessian, fortified with said glue. They were embellished with coats-of-arms and embossed with rope. We were rightly proud of our shields until it was pointed out that they were meant to be divided between both armies (The French ones were longer and narrower than ours). Neville Bradbury, God bless him, remarked, in his wonderfully sardonic way that the French and English must have shopped at the same department store.
After working on Pygmalion, we took a break and headed for Majorca. The Spanish waiters in our hotel kept asking us to help them with their English. And Kath obliged by teaching them all to say, "Ee by gum, not bloody likely!", in a strong Lancashire accent (imitating variety-artist, Hilda Baker).
However, it was on the Social Committee that we had most fun. It was undoubtedly her true metier. Many professional actors showed keen interest in our new theatre, and I remember Robert Rietty, Paul Rogers and Roger Rees being among those treated by Kath to a briefing on the versatility of the adaptable stage, etc. And there were the 'big-do's' - the laying of the foundation-stone and the fund-raising events when our then patron, Michael Redgrave, officiated, himself moving among the audience, cap-in-hand.
Kath knew and was interested in everyone but was especially good with VIP's (the photo of her fearlessly pinning a 'Coarse Acting' badge to Prince Charles's lapel has already appeared in Questopics, but I don't know if his response has - a grin, and "Oh good, my tailor will be pleased!") Her concern and attention to their welfare was her special talent and made her an enormous asset to our theatre. She was a star!.
I joined The Questors in 1954. Alfred was underwhelmed by my audition and only let me in because I said I was interested in fund raising. Kath was a willing recruit to the cause. She was a tower of strength at funding events. She was too sensitive to ask directly for money but her enthusiasm and interest in whatever people said to her got prospective donors in the right mood for me to go in for the kill.
I asked her to look after Judi Dench and Michael Williams on their first visit. Judi was very pregnant at the time so was on the receiving end of much advice from Kath. She subsequently called her new dog Finty, after the daughter Judi had.
Judi came to see Kath as something of a mother figure. She, like me. was charmed by some of her homespun advice like "Think of tomorrow for today is already in the past." I use it frequently...
...and miss her dreadfully.
It's hard to imagine that, with her enormous workload and commitment at The Questors, Kath also managed a busy and happy domestic life. However, with her husband Ernie, who unhappily pre-deceased her, she ran an attractive and comfortable home in West Ealing. where they entertained widely and lavishly. Many a riotously successful after-show party was held at Kath's house and many a pre-production conference went on for cosy hours there with Kath providing copious refreshments.
She also had a beautiful garden which she and Ernie lovingly tended and into which her entertaining spilled in the warmer weather. How she did it all, raising two splendid sons Colin and Graham to boot, one often wondered.
The older of her sons, Graham, emigrated to Australia where Kath's busy life later expanded. She spent happy weeks in the Antipodes, including in her visits reunions with ex-Questors such as Pat and Judy Bowley. She managed the last of these visits at an ailing 92, catching up by now with an extended family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
With all this, Kath never seemed fussed or harassed. She was always calm and cheerful, always ready to spare time for another person's worries or ready to lend a helping hand no matter how busy she was.
No wonder vie shall miss her so!
[Questopics 495, June 2004]