Patsy Blackmore: 27 August 1927 – 5 February 2020
This obituary, written by Lyn Hyde, is also published in the Summer 2020 (online) edition of The Gaddesden Diary
Patsy Blackmore was a joy. She was a member of Little Gaddesden Drama Club for more than 60 years, first joining in 1958, and was ultimately our President.
Patsy acted, produced and directed for LGDC for over 60 years. There are few productions where her name is not somewhere in the programme, either on stage, directing, publicity, even behind the bar; she did everything but the lighting! Her first venture onto Little Gaddesden stage was in ‘Down Came a Blackbird’ in 1958, when her neighbour Enid Foxall dragged her along ‘to meet a few people’. It was the start of a long, very happy and creative relationship with Enid and the club. Enid and Patsy appeared in and directed all manner of productions together. One of the most memorable was ‘Arsenic & Old Lace’ when they appeared as Abby & Martha Brewster, the two old ladies burying elderly gentlemen in the cellar. In 1973 Patsy starred in ‘The King & I’ as Anna with Neil Ryall as the King, the wonderful crinoline dress (hired) waltzing around LG Village Hall’s tiny stage was truly a choreographic triumph.
Initially Patsy directed Revues, delighting in researching sketches and selections of songs for which she wrote locally connected additional lyrics. In 1986 she teamed with Bill Oram to direct ‘Guys and Dolls’ and the following year they did ‘A Christmas Carol’ together. She ventured into Pantomime in a production of ‘Dick Whittington’ and a musical adaptation of Charles Dickins’ ‘Smike’. She also co-directed Priestley’s ‘When We Are Married’ and ‘Habeas Corpus’ by Alan Bennett, and several ENSA nights…the list goes on. I think the production she was most proud of was ‘Steel Magnolias’ by Robert Harling in 2004. It was the first ‘straight play’ she had directed, having always been associated with revues and musical plays – out of her comfort zone with a very challenging script – but, goodness, she and the cast rose to that challenge!
Patsy was born in York in 1927. She enjoyed boarding school in Helmsley before being evacuated to Castle Howard in her early teens. It was at Castle Howard that Patsy fell in love with music and drama – and music and drama would later become a very big part of her life. The family moved to London, and Patsy wanted to go into drama but her mother told her she needed to do something practical to ensure that she would always be employed.
So, at the age of 19 Patsy was enrolled at Constance Hoster’s Secretarial Training College for young ladies in the Cromwell Road, an institution ‘famed for turning out gels for the establishment’ as the Financial Times put it. (Margaret Crawford also attended ‘Mrs Hoster’s’ which she confided was a prime recruiting ground for MI5 and the Foreign Office.) Patsy got her first job working at the US Embassy in Grosvenor Square. Towards the end of the 40’s Patsy met Roy Blackmore a young flying officer in the RAF and they became a part of London High Society. Patsy attended the nightclub scene with other debutantes, who included the young Princess Elizabeth and her beau, Philip Mountbatten. Patsy and Roy were married in 1951 and moved to Priory Cottage and later ‘Theccans’ in Little Gaddesden. Patsy had the whole family involved with the club at various times – Roy on the bar and the children acting in various plays and shows.
In 2017 LGDC held its 70th Anniversary party, which happily coincided with Patsy’s 90th birthday. Members past and present joined in singing songs from the revues and Tracey Rudy sang Patsy’s signature song ‘The boy I love is up in the Gallery’ before Patsy cut the cake.
In the programme notes from our last Revue Patrick Isherwood wrote:
“For many years the driving force behind our revues was Patsy Blackmore, both as the director and the curator of a wide range of interesting material drawn from her lengthy experience of the theatre. The 2017 Revue was the first not to involve Patsy, who gave her own farewell performance in 2011 singing Send in the Clowns – a beautiful song associated with artists as disparate as Judy Collins, Carol Channing and Judi Dench. I have included it in this year’s programme as a tribute to Patsy who I really hope will be able to come along and see it. If she is not able to make it I am confident that she will be with us in spirit”.
She was indeed a driving force, and we will miss her enormously. At her funeral service held shortly before the coronavirus lockdown, her family chose ‘Life is a Cabaret’ for her to take her very final curtain.
1 June 2020
Header image: Patsy Blackmore (publicity photo for ‘Steel Magnolias’, 2004)