Fond memories of popular Shoreham primary school teacher and poet

Popular Shoreham primary school teacher Betty Elliott has died within weeks of the publication of A’Musings.

Betty Elliott

The volume of rhymes and poems, a best-of collection from her 90 years, was released to mark her landmark birthday earlier this year. The book was edited by her son Mark who lives in Chichester and was published by Amazon where it is available at £5 paperback, £2.95 Kindle.

Mark said: “My beloved mother was all heart, a born performer with a quotation up her sleeve for any occasion, yet always loving and irrepressibly good humoured. Betty was a much-loved teacher for many years at St Nicholas & St Mary’s School in Shoreham. Her husband Ian Elliott was also chairman of West Sussex County Council – a fact referenced with some humour in a couple of the poems.”

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As Mark says, it is effectively a best-of collection: “(The poems) are at times moving, poignant, funny and beautifully observed slices of life. In a world where poetry has all too often become a little overly forced and self-indulgent, the easy metre of the rhymes is also rather refreshing in its simplicity.

“The idea of publishing the volume was timed to be a 90th birthday present for my mother, but on the big day she was in Worthing Hospital receiving life-saving treatment. Visiting, we took a copy of the poems in to show her, and it proved quite a hit with the carers.

“My mother survived the immediate cause of her hospitalisation but was given just a few weeks to live.”

Since then she had been at home receiving care from the “angels” of St Barnabas Hospice, Mark said.

“They too have found the poems to be delightful and it occurred to my mother and the whole family that half the profits from sales of the book could go to St Barnabas as a small token of our appreciation. If nothing else, it would also be helpful to draw attention to the great work that these wonderful people do in bringing dignity and a touch of joy to the otherwise devastating end of life journey.

“Betty had always been a performer, was a leading light of the Southwick am-dram scene in the 1960s (http://wicktheatre.co.uk/wick-cast-crew/betty-gedge/) and had been encouraged to go to RADA – though she wisely decided against professional theatre as being too risky a career choice.

“Instead she trained as a teacher and found herself writing pantomimes and plays for school productions. Her knack for finding a bon mot and the ability to combine light-hearted quips with bitter sweet observations of every-day life were also translated into her poetry. Outwardly this was mostly a talent that she used as a way to make greetings cards more jolly or as eulogies for local occasions. However, as I discovered recently in rereading some of her countless notebooks, there are many works that really do have a global appeal. Betty had been writing rhymes and poems for her whole life, about almost any subject. Probably her most creative period spanned the decade starting in the mid-late 1990s, a period that included the birth of her first grandson as well as a time of many interesting engagements linked with my father’s role as WSCC chair and later deputy lieutenant.”

Betty was never published before though her plays and pantomimes were performed in school and at college.

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