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August 21, 2009 The Letters No Comments
Letter from Mary Greg archive

Letter from Mary Greg archive

I’ve recently finished reading the letters and am struck by how much they reveal, both directly and between the lines.  I was delighted to find a lot of unexpected material.  About Manchester – the economic, political and social issues of the day.  About the Art Gallery (the wrangling of the proposed new build and the early developments of Platt, Heaton and Wythenshawe Halls).  About the weather  (I love knowing what the weather was doing on the 23rd November, 1925 “… dense fog prevailing for close on a fortnight…”) and the preoccupation with health (Mary suffered from numerous colds, shingles, chest complaints, influenza and even partial blindness towards the end of her life).

There is plenty to contribute real insight to a profile of Mary. Her progressive thinking and openness to new ideas through references to homeopathy and the Hay Diet.  Her political leanings and views on world affairs from commentary contained in the wartime letters.  And her reasons and passion for collecting of which there are scattered references throughout.  So these letters are a gold mine (I’m convinced there’s a Phd in there somewhere!).

I was particularly struck by the change in tone and flavour of the letters following the untimely death of William Batho (there was a true and genuine warmth there. Believe me!) and how that very sad event also left so many unfinished stories.  Whatever happened to poor Mrs Batho who always seemed to be at deaths door, but who eventually outlived her husband?  And did their daughters ever find suitable careers / husbands?

I’ve also been surprised by how much the letters have influenced my creative practice and thinking.  Partly because I’ve been so engrossed in them I have been distracted from the studio, but equally in how much they’ve instigated ideas, arising not only from my own discoveries but things that others have unearthed too (but more of that at a later date).  I am thoroughly enjoying the archival research and following the trails that are thrown up.  Sharon

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