Susan Thurgood

(with college group photo)

Pat is in the back row of our first-year photo at St. Hugh’s, with her round face and large fringe and a cheeky smile, looking not a day over 15. We were 19 years old and ready to “eat the world”, as the Spanish say. However, we were soon made to eat humble pie. Our tutor recommended a lecture on Molière at St. John’s college. The lecturer looked round the hall and told any first year students to leave as the subject-matter was far too difficult . We decided to stay sitting firmly on our benches. There were three of us reading French and Spanish. As there was no resident Spanish tutor we were farmed out to St. Anne’s where we had a tutor called Mrs. Hogg – Hogg by name and hog by nature. She told us that our first essays were sub-standard and that we would get a C+ in the final exams. However, she also let out that it was possible to choose one’s tutor, so we went straight back to St. Hugh’s and asked never to have her again after Prelims, a wise decision, as we made good after all. At our first French lecture on Gide we were told that the Preliminary exams to be taken at Easter of the first year were designed to “divide the sheep from the goats”. Unlike Mrs. Hogg, the French tutor never considered us to be goats, although there is a goat farm behind this church. Of course Pat shone both in French and in Spanish at the conversation classes, no problems there.

I had a Spanish fiancé, now my husband, who was ship’s doctor on a boat travelling between London and the Canary Isles. It carried a cargo of tomatoes and bananas and 40 passengers, which is why they needed a doctor. When the Spanish crew found out that my fiancé was visiting a college full of girls they all wanted to travel down to Oxford with him. Luckily he managed to dissuade them, but he did bring a huge box of tomatoes and Pat, whose interest in cooking James has just mentioned, made a delicious Algerian dish and entertained us with a belly dance.

After Prelims we did different subjects, had different friends and different interests, but we came together again in the second year as we all had “college daughters” and there were many tea-parties to help them settle in. Pat developed a lasting relationship with several of these “freshwomen”, including Penelope Johnstone, who studied Arabic – Pat was very interested in that – and whom you may have met down here. Pat introduced Celia Grayson to her future husband and I know when Ron wrote to give his condolences to James he told him how grateful he was. Pat’s own college daughter was to become the most famous of all: opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (or Burma).

The third year is a bit of a blur. We were all concentrated on finals. However I do remember that Pat lent me her room for my twenty-first birthday. I just had a hen party because my fiancé wasn’t going to be there. She had a lovely large room that year. She also organised the joint present: a set of saucepans as I was going to get married after finals. She came to my wedding and completed the set with a pretty dish that I still have today.

Pat is remembered for her huge personality and her elegant hats, but especially for being kind and maternal and good at organising, the seeds of what she was to become in the future.