The Life of Mary Kearns

Welcome to a timeline of my life. My name is Mrs Mary Gay Kearns, and I am an artist, painter and mother.

My son started off this timeline in the hope that I would finish it off. There is, after all, so much that I could put on this timeline - pictures of my children and grandchildren, for starters.;xNLx;;xNLx;And when I finally leave this earth, this timeline will remain here, always ready to tell the story of a life that was once mine.

1952-02-28 00:00:00


I was born on a cold day in February, at around 6 o'clock in the evening at the Wier Hospital, Balham.

1956-02-28 00:00:00

The Isle of Wight

My Mother's father, Frank, and his third wife Gwen and her Mother lived in a bungalow at Totland on the Alan Bay Rd.

1957-01-23 00:00:00

Our House in Penwortham Road

Our house in Penwortham Road was a three bedroomed terrace.There were two separate living rooms with the front kept for best.The back room, always sunny, with French doors opening onto the garden. In this south facing room was a pale blue carpet, an open fireplace with white mantlepiece. Here, Grace would listen to Woman's Hour on the radio with Fluff our large, long haired, cat on her lap. Here Richard and I played Cheat and Lexicon and Scrabble, which we did not like as we both read little at that time. Here Dad slept in the evenings after work. Here we watchet cricket and football on the small television set which stood in one corner away from the light. A square, extendable, table resided by the French doors, often with a vase of flowers from the garden, or the Frister and Rossman sewing machine or papers from the previous night's children's homework bedecking the surface. This room of activity was where we shared family gatherings. It was the hearth of our lives.

1957-02-28 00:00:00

My Dresses made by Grace

My Mother made most of my dresses from the time I was a tiny baby, lying in my pram, until I was16 and able to make my own. She made nearly all her own clothes, usually shift dresses or ones out of crimpeline with short sleeves and fitted.

1958-02-28 00:00:00

Mary as a little girl

A selection of photos of me, taken by my parents when I was young.

1958-12-12 00:00:00

My Dad, a man of surprises

My Dad loved a bargain, Streatham High Road or Tooting Market where on Saturdays bargains could be had late in the day. Our house was full of an array of diverse investments often nothing matching but bought for their quality or quantity.

1962-07-06 00:00:00

Childhood and my Art

I came from a creative home. My Mother, Grace, had painted a bit and kept scraps of paper and backs of cards in a kitchen drawer so we children (my brother, Richard, and I) could always explore our imagination.

1962-08-26 00:00:00

Eric William Henry Ayton-Robinson - My Dad

On Sunday aftenoons or early evening, Dad would often say to me "come on Ducks do you fancy a walk down to The Cricketers", which was near Mitcham Common.

1962-10-28 00:00:00

Memories of Grace, My Mother.

I remember the drawer in our breakfast-room dresser. It was full of pieces of paper each one contained one of you dreams, a garden design, the beginnings of a story, a little drawing of a small girl with a turned up nose and curly hair (like yours), an idea for one of my dresses yet to be made, shopping lists, notes on how to manage the "teenage years", and lots of backs of Christmas cards.

1964-02-28 00:00:00

Grace and Mary (me)

When I was older you told me about the night your first boyfriend (Bill) was killed. He was shot down in his aeroplane at the beginning of The Second World War. That night you felt he come to say goodbye and saw his face leaning over your bed.

1964-10-05 00:00:00

My Aunty Elizabeth (Betty)Westbrook

My Mother's sister Elizabeth known to us as Betty, when children, was very special to me.

1965-10-28 00:00:00

Streatham ,school and the parks

My Infant's school was called Furzedown and Primary school Penwortham. From seven to eleven I simply had to cross the road and enter the school gates.Home for lunch and Mum not far away.

1968-01-28 00:00:00

My beardy lover

I met Roger - my future husband - when we got chatting at work. I knew I liked him straight away but it took us a few months to get our act together.

1968-09-07 00:00:00

Me at 16 wearing a dress

This is me as a carefree sixteen year old. I am wearing a dress that I made myself. I use to be really into sewing back then and even made my own Wedding Dress. My Mother ,Grace, taught me how to understand patterns and about the weft and warp in material. I even made Roger a tie in flowery fabric to match my 60's dress. Later I made lots of clothes for my children, including shorts and pyjamas for my son, Alex.

1968-12-24 00:00:00

Apollo 8 Christmas Day Lunar Orbit

On Boxing Day 1968, Roger and I were on our way home from Aunty Glad's house to Walthamstow. It was late in the evening and a clear night. We looked up into the sky and thought we saw the spacecraft " Apollo 8 " orbiting above. It was a magical feeling, thinking those brave men had got so far away from the planet Earth and were now looking down on all of humanity.They read the beginning of Genisis from Lunar orbit on Christmas Day. We watched it on the television at my home in Penwortham. It was very exciting and there was so much yet to be achieved in the space programme.

1969-02-28 00:00:00

My future husband

Roger Kearns - my future husband - was always very proud of his beard, as you can see from this picture of him as a young man. He lived at 36,Chestnut Avenue, Walthamstow E.17. I remember the house very well with its tall sash windows and green and yellow painted woodwork. We spent most weekends at Roger's house, especially as Gertie his, Mother, was usually visiting her sister Glad. Many hours were spent down Woodstreet and over Epping forest. We visited lots of places in London and also some of Roger's relatives and friends. I was always buying him Tobacco tins and he kept loosing them but I did not mind.

1970-05-21 00:00:00

Wedding Day at Wandsworth

This was the day Roger and I got married. It was bright and sunny and Chelsea Flower Show just opening . I held a bunch of pink roses made by myself and wore a cotton short dress and white patent shoes.The dress I made the previous week. Gertie gave me a lucky cat to carry and there was confetti. The service short and to the point. Rog wore his gold waist coat and a dark suit and looked stunning with his black hair. I felt very young and slightly foolish but also happy. We had a meal with my parents and brother, Richard, Nan and Gertie and then caught the train to West Withering for a few days honeymoon. The weather was hot and I ran along the sands in my short blue skirt and we both got sunburnt. I wore my bikini for the last time before Katharine was born. The pink roses, I put in a glass in our room at the quest house. I don't expect they are there still ! Thank you Rog for all your love and generosity. Love Mary xx

1970-10-08 00:00:00

Two Dark Eyes

Having married on the 21st of May, our first baby still tucked away inside me (and after a short stay with Roger's mother, Gertie, who was kindness itself) we moved into our first home: 15, The Maisonettes. Park Avenue, Bushey.

1970-12-25 00:00:00

First Christmas as a Family

First Christmas celebrated together with a decorated Chrismas tree, Radio Four and mince pies. Our Baby was beginning to be interested in moving objects and was given a little crochet hanging figure which made her laugh. It was very magical as I ironed tiny vests and nighties and listened to a Radio play titled " A Mother Bearing her First Child ". Roger and I spent the day with our daughter and on Boxing Day, when the buses were running, Grace and Bill came to visit.

1972-08-12 00:00:00

A Son is Born

A bright sunny day in late August and about 4 o'clock in the afternoon I realised my second child would soon arrive.

1974-02-26 00:00:00

Victoria Anne Kearns

Our small family had by now moved to a rather delapidated house- 67, Millway, Bushey. It needed quite a lot of work to be done and Rog had to balance that with his long hours on the milk.

1977-06-11 00:00:00

New house New Baby-Elizabeth

Me being who I am, I persuaded Rog to have a look at a house advertised on the local notice board. This would mean no estate agent fees and the price was within our reach.

1977-06-11 00:00:00


Dear Children ( and Grandchildren) I found in motherhood a joy, a bliss beyond anything I had ever known. An intimacy, a tenderness, a beauty all of its own. As each of you were born I found a new delight in searching out and discovering all the little perculiarities and individual qualities, that each one of you possessed. Hours I would spend holding, stroking, talking to and gazing ,with happiness, into bright brown eyes.

1978-05-21 00:00:00

Lucky the black and white Cat

One day in the Spring Rog visited our shed in the back garden and returned indoors, very quietly, with closed hands. We (the children and I) thought he was going to frighten us with a big spider but there in his hands were three baby kittens.

1981-08-26 00:00:00

Working Life and Friendships

Returning to paid employment after a gap of twelve years gave me the opportunity to try out what I might like to do when my children had grown up. My first job was as an auxilliary nurse at our local maternity hospital. I did two nights a week and it was there that I met my very dear friend, Joyce Poulton. We have been friends for thirty-two years.

1981-09-07 00:00:00

Roger and I and Cassiobury Park

Roger and I moved to The Gardens in 1981. Nearby is Cassiobury, a most beautiful park. Tree lined avenues set in wide open spaces flow down to the river Gade and the Grand Union Canal. The two trees in the photograph Rog and I adopted as our own. I took many pictures of them over the years. Now only the tall one remains. Love You. Mary x

1982-10-09 00:00:00

Katie, Alex, Vics and Lizzie

By 1982 all our four children had started school and we were living at Cassiobury,near the park.

1983-04-26 00:00:00

The Bicycle Rides

When Victoria was nine years old and the others younger and older we decided to ride our bikes to see Aunty Glad and Gertie at Staines. We had been out bicycling a lot as a family,taking our bikes to the Isle of Wight, Cassiobury Park and King Georges Park, in Bushey. Lizzie ,who was only 5 rode on the back of Roger's bike in a little seat.

1983-06-26 00:00:00

Jennie Harpin

Mary has been a special friend of mine since we met 31 years ago while working at Watford General Hospital. I especially remember the cake Mary iced, and decorated with delicate sugar roses she had made, for me when I left the hospital. We have spent many happy hours together 'putting the world to rights'. I will always treasure our friendship Mary, With love Jennie ( Thank you Jennie,love Mary )

1985-10-30 00:00:00

Bilingualism and Chater School

As part of my first degree, I completed a dissertation on "Bilingualism". The books I read changed my out look on language aquisition and the effects of something called "Subtractive Bilingualism".

1986-05-20 00:00:00

Art week at Wallhall (Devon)

As our children became more independant I decided to return to study and complete "A" and "O" levels badly neglected in my school days.

1986-06-01 00:00:00

Wall Hall

Having just received my A level results and O level Mathis at the age of 34 I embarked on a Teacher Training Course at Wall Hall in Radlett. I was so excited. Remembering the first day sitting for our year photograph in my cream leather jacket and neat skirt and shoes. I looked around me at all the new faces and it was on this day that I met Sharon Trigg. We had to do a quiz to familiarise ourselves with the buildings and the grounds of the college. I was not particularly good at quizzes and my vocabulary far from well developed. Anyhow I met Sharon over the words ' between the apiary and topiary.' Not knowing the meaning of either I was very grateful for Sharon's grammar school education and hours doing the cross word with her husband Chris.. We had both chosen Art as our main study and it was to be the beginning of a long and wonderful friendship. Although different in many ways Sharon and I complimented each other. We both loved the clay room and did our finals in clay work. I loved our years together , our studing together and the humour we shared. She was my best friend and the time spent iat college one of the best in my life. Love and thank you to my dear friend ,Saron, from Mary XXX

1986-10-01 00:00:00

Mike Hardy Wallhall

Mary brought not only her creativity and imagination, but also her great sense of fun to the group. ( Thank You Mike. Love Mary )

1990-09-23 00:00:00

Ceramics and my Inspiration

From childhood I had always liked making things and trying to find solutions to practical, creative ventures.

1993-05-25 00:00:00

The Woodland Project and Art School

( ST ALBANS AND HERTFORDSHIRE UNIVERSITY 1992-1997 ) SCATTERDALE WOODS . We stand together in a clearing, Sue Springett and I, and contemplate the space. We have to make it our own, the two of us. So the space must include all of you and all of me, neither must force their desires upon the other. There has to be equalibrium.

1996-05-26 00:00:00


Below is a poem I wrote when I was at Art School and reading lots of books on aesthetics. Writers and critical theorists like Deluze, Guitarri, Barthes and Derrida. My children particularly, Alex, found the ideas in this poem very amusing. We use to have great discussions and laughs. Now Alex works in the very space this poem attempts to illuminate.

1996-06-25 00:00:00

Pam and I at Art School - Hertfordshire

At Art School I met a very dear friend called Pamela Green. The end of each day would find a group of students sitting together, in the large canteen, talking, drinking coffee or bottled water and discussing the day's events. Pam became very important to me. The more I got to know her, the more there was to discover. I wrote the poem below for her and our friendship.

1997-05-22 00:00:00

My best photograpic work

Some of my best photographic work, taken using a B/W film and an Olympus Om10 SLR camera. A few colour photos too. Mainly, Our Family.

1997-07-25 00:00:00

Drawings of my Family

Having lots of baby grandchildren around to act as willing models, (although they never kept still unless they were asleep) I took every opportunity to fill my sketchbook.

1997-10-30 00:00:00

Time, Space and the Image

A course at Birkbeck with the above title was taught by Carolyn Gill. This lady was one of the most intelligent and innovative lecturers I have ever met.

1998-02-04 00:00:00

Grace Emily Westbrook1918-1998

Dear Mum , I have been writing about Dad (Bill) and I want to say how much I loved you too. I remember you most standing in the kitchen whilst I hung on the door frame chatting continuously to you about all sorts of things.

1999-06-12 00:00:00

Discovering Gardening

We moved to Cassiobury to a four bedroom house with a large garden and kind neighbours.Pat and Dennis. In the1997 when I first became ill, with Sarcoidosis, Pat made me tubs of pretty flowers to cheer me up.

2000-09-23 00:00:00

Turning Points in Painting

Learning to try and paint is a slow and unpredictable process. Any teaching has to allow space for the unknown to come into being and therefore certain aspects are ultimately unteachable.

2001-01-23 00:00:00

Books, Films, Music, Art

Eventually, I found the type of books and subject areas I could identify with. These were mainly on philosophy ,critical theory, artists and ceramicists, biographies about poets and writers. As for Film and Music these came gradually and changed as I did, or they changed me.

2001-09-11 00:00:00

The Event that changed the world

On this ordinary day I had just given my friend a lift back from college and saw the events unfold on his parent's television. It was the most shocking image of my life time and seeing the second plane slice into the second tower was the realisation that this was an act of violation and terroism. No accident. We watched with horror as the towers fell and the deverstation that followed. It was a very different type of shock from when J. F. Kennedy was shot. I was 11/12 years old and holding my friend's baby in Penwortham Rd. John Lennon's death was a sadness but the Twin Towers was an assault on humanity. Creativity is a neutral quality but can be used for good or evil.

2001-09-23 00:00:00

My Paintings and ideas in Art

After being very ill with Sarcoidosis which prevented me from continuing teaching at Chater Junior School. I returned to Hatfield, where I did my Art degree, to do some painting.

2003-09-23 00:00:00

Jelly Moulds and slip-casting

Having enrolled in Ceramics "Open Studies" at Hatfield I had to decide on what I was going to make. At the beginning of the term we had a brainstorming session to extend our ideas on the chosen topic areas.

2004-05-26 00:00:00

Painting after my Art Degree

These are some of the paintings I did on the Open Studies course at U of Hertfordshire and at West Herts College, in Ian Poulton's classes.

2006-05-10 00:00:00

Press moulds

Press moulding is a technique in ceramins where you either roll clay over or into a plaster mould or press objects in to the clay. It is a very exciting process and easy to master. I made lots of press moulded decorative plates using an old cast from Herkomer House.The photo shows a plate using turquoise undergaze and Copper Red .

2006-08-26 00:00:00

Chartres Cathedral

As an artist, most of my spare time is spent painting, drawing and making ceramics. I visit exhibitions every weekend with Roger and during the week with my art friend Ian. The attached photo is of Chartres Cathedral in France. I spent a few days there with Ian Poulton and took lots of photos of the inside of the cathedral and the stainglass windows. I like medieval architecture and sculpture and statues of the Madonna and child.

The Life of Mary Kearns

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