Joan Reilly, a former lecturer at St Mary's University, died on 10th August 2016 aged 90. The Requiem Mass of Joan Mary Walpole Reilly, held at the Chapel in the Maryville Care Home in Brentford, west London last Friday, was attended by former students, colleagues and family members.
Born at St Thomas' Hospital in London on 17th January 1926, Joan was the daughter of watchmaker Francis Reilly and Anne Walpole, who had met in Leitrim in Ireland. Sadly her father died when she was just four years old. Joan's mother found a live-in job as caretaker at a cat's home in Kentish Town, north London, which she describes in one of her short stories. Joan's mother was ill for much of her life. Joan cared for her for many years, while she worked as a librarian and then trained as a teacher. She taught in London for several years. After her mother's death Joan earned a Master's degree at Boston University in America and went on to teach at a university in Australia. Returning to England she was a Senior Lecturer in English and Drama at St Mary's College, Strawberry Hill (Now St Mary's University) from 1967 to 1986.
On her retirement Joan became a tour guide at Hampton Court, and was very involved with the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond. She wrote a number of scripts and stories. An expert on 18th and early 19th century literature, she gave several talks and radio broadcasts, including one on the life of Lord Nelson. She was an active member of her parish at St Margaret's, Twickenham, loved the theatre, book festivals, concerts and art exhibitions as well as gardening and cooking. She supported many charitable causes. Joan had a wonderful sense of humour. She travelled a good deal and enjoyed entertaining and keeping up with her many friends.
Joan had a strong faith. She always emphasised the importance of education - in the fullest sense of the word. She loved young people and was a great guide and mentor to many students and former students who kept in touch with her. One former student was the distinguished actor Peter Postlethwaite. She also befriended several young people from Eastern Europe - helping them with accommodation, job hunting and learning English.
In her last years Joan suffered a number of health problems without complaining. She spent her last five years at the Maryville Care Home, where she was very active until the last few weeks of her life.
One friend, Judith Burman, said: "Joan's giving and thoughtfulness for young people being was so striking. Whatever difficulties of her own she had on her plate she put others first. She was naturally generous and seemed to specially sense the affirming that young people need. I think she had something of that for us all which made us love her."
Seamus McAvitie, one of her students from 1975, and a parishioner at St Margaret's, said: "Although Joan was quite unwell in her last few weeks, she never lost her sense of humour. When I came to visit I was always able to get a chuckle out of her."