Joan Leach MBE

Joan at Tabley in 2001


Joan Leach and Mrs Gaskell
(A last conversation with Joan – and her final determined rewards)

In Carnegie's Knutsford Library – She turned
I queued behind her for the copier
“My mistake – I’ve copied two pictures
Perhaps you'd like this one”
– My introduction to Joan
And Mrs Gaskell

Sedately pedalling around the town
Along and back from Far Yew Tree
Fleeing to talks – trips – information of more
Determined to claim the Knutsford niche
For Mrs Gaskell

Setting up this – researching that
Telling everyone about her finds
'Buzzing fascination from her hive'
Not once proscriptive – but undoubtable
On Mrs Gaskell
In Tabley House – the second floor
A place so suitable to nurse
Our Joan – Miss Ford – who taught round here
Where all the Cranford tales were set
By Mrs Gaskell

Sitting – slightly stunned by news
Late come – to bowl her planning over
She talked about the end that soon must come
The end of everything she knew
Not Mrs Gaskell

“No internet to use – My fingers and the phone
Do not accord – My palliation helps
But there's no pain – I'm dizzy and I feel
Unsteady on my feet – I use a frame
But Mrs Gaskell...

Today they're all off in a coach
Westminster will receive – Not me
The window that I worked to gain
Inaugurated – but I cannot go -
To Mrs Gaskell

My files and records now
Unreachable by me are still
In wait for those good friends
Who will continue -when I'm gone -
In Mrs Gaskell

And will The Archive take the files
Of my good Christopher – the man
I still look up to with fond love
It must be settled – as I hope will also
Be Mrs Gaskell

They said they couldn't make it right
Two tumours – spreading from the lung
Sit in the brain - and I will die
I will not fight nor weep for me
Still Mrs Gaskell...

If I still live by Wednesday next
I will achieve my final aim
The Bicentenary of she
Who gave strong purpose to my will
My Mrs Gaskell”

And so she did – The day was cold
Her wheelchair lifted her to life
Her car – her oxygen – her help
Gave her the right to celebrate
Her Mrs Gaskell

In one long gesture – and her last
She lived – and died when it was done
Yet still remembrance brings her close
The Chapel sitting on the hill
Where she will be remembered still
With Mrs Gaskell
And following along her way
Still flowing to October's end
The Tatton exhibition runs
Which she created during life
On Mrs Gaskell
22 May 2011, Joan's ashes were interred at Knutsford Unitarian Chapel graveyard, at the foot of her beloved Mrs Gaskell's grave. Her inscription reads:
"Devoted to
the Dear Memory of
Joan Marjorie Leach
Entered into Rest
September 30th 2010
Local Historian
Dearly loved and missed by many
Rest in Peace"


Joan Leach - resting with Mrs Gaskell

An ancient chapel on the hill
Where rest the lives of centuries
Had still a place to welcome in
This space - surrounded by the kin
Of Mrs Gaskell - long beloved
Whose memory and history
Were brought to this secluded earth

Yet years beyond the sudden death
Elizabeth had suffered then
Our Joan laid forth the memory
Of she - to make her known to all
And dying - rested well content
With Mrs Gaskell - long beloved
Continuing in history
To share this same secluded earth

04Jun2011 CPR

Settling Joan’s Ashes

Close by the old yew tree
In gusty chasing weather
Her relatives foregather

A drift of long-come friends
The Minister in cheerful green
And hovering close by unseen

Our Joan in memory
Her footfalls round the gravestones mind
Their footfalls saddened now and kind

As months ago she died
But not until her mark was cast
A longer shadow at her last

My service will be so she said
Tea and cake to follow on

In welcome when I’m gone

And so it was – the loss
Increased-diminished by her plan
Returning dust where she began

So now the time collects
Her wish to share her birth
Her life - her loss - her dust - her earth

Upon the hill to rest
Where Gaskell and her husband stay
Beside this chapel to this day

Far Yew Tree Joan at rest
Below her Gaskell grave laid in
In love and honour by her kin

CPR 04Jun2011

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1 comment:

  1. Joan's funeral, today, was it seems, just as Joan wanted it. Full of patience, not quite perfect, but full of good friends and family, fine food, bright weather, interesting conversations,and the Celebration of her life that she had carefully organised.

    May we all end as well as that.