Alison Mallett, 4th February 1928 – Tues 24th May 2022

Alison Mallett passed away peacefully on Tuesday 24th May 2022 at her beloved home, Lurley Manor, in Devon. She had lived in this ancient listed building, with her wonderful husband Tony, for many years.

Alison was born on 4th February 1928 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaya. She spent some of her childhood years in Antigua. Back in England during the Second World War she recalled cowering under the bed in their Hampshire home listening to the Doodlebug bombs falling nearby.

Alison was sent for her secondary education to Bedales, the free-spirited Hampshire school with its Credo of ‘Head, Hand and Heart’ and where intelligence, individuality and initiative mattered. She loved music, played lacrosse and cricket, and was Captain of Girls Athletics.

Alison went up to Oxford to read Modern Languages at Lady Margaret Hall on a Scholarship from Sarawak. She graduated with an MA in Modern Languages and a Lacrosse half blue. At that time women only received half blues although nowadays it is a blue for lacrosse. This was quite an achievement at a time when women were ‘worth only half a man’, as Alison liked to point out. She was fluent in French, German, and later, after studying at Exeter University and in Florence, Italian.

At Oxford she developed her lifelong love of music and became part of a talented circle of musicians who remained among her closest friends for the rest of her life. Following Oxford she went into The Colonial Office.

Alison and I first met in 1989 when we had both recently moved to Devon. We shared a mutual love of music. My diary of 8th December 1989 shows that on that very day we met at my home to play Piano Trios together. She was on cello and I on piano. We loved the great works of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms and Schubert. Alison often mentioned that if she were to have another life, she would be a professional cellist.

Around that time we encountered Dr John Byrt, a brilliant professional musician who had been an Oxford Don, a repetiteur at Glyndebourne and a member of the Early Music group, Musica Reservata. As a result of ill health John moved to Devon where he taught at the local college, ran a choir and set up an early music group of singers and instrumentalists named the Lowman Consort. Alison and I both became part of the ensemble and fell in love with viols, harpsichords and recorders. The Consort performed regularly throughout the year in churches and stately homes around Devon. Alison bought herself a beautiful bass viol made by the renowned local maker, Jane Julier.

Alison also played in many smaller viol consorts throughout Devon, Somerset and Gloucestershire. She was invited each summer to play in Alison Crum’s prestigious viol course at Charney Manor near Oxford.

She set up a local viol playing consort that often met at her home. Each week groups of friends visited Lurley Manor to play wonderful music written for viol consorts and the afternoon finished with a delicious tea, laughter and sometimes a small glass of whisky. Friday afternoons became a sacred time to Alison when she could sit down with friends and play the music she loved so much. She also organised evenings of poetry and music at her home and invited old Oxford colleagues as well as her newer local musicians.

Alison was also a great lover of literature and gardening. She had a passion for trees and flowers and planted out a beautiful garden at Lurley. She created and conserved the National Collection of geums. She would travel the world looking for new and rare species of plants including visits to the mountains of Bhutan by donkey.

Alison and Tony loved Italy and Scotland and bought houses in both places which they enjoyed visiting and welcoming family and friends.

Alison liked people and having fun. She had a wicked sense of humour and told us many humorous tales from her life as a young student at Oxford, such as swimming in the moat around the Chateau de Chenonceau. When spotted by some young French men she recalled them saying “Mon Dieu! Il y a des nymphes dans l’eau”! She told us of the time in Italy when two young men on a Lambretta tried to snatch her handbag but she would not let go and ran after them hitting them repeatedly with the handbag until they fell from the scooter and ran off with fear and trembling!

Alison will be greatly missed by all her family and friends. I think often of her and of the wonderful afternoons of music and laughter at Lurley.

Marilyn Pocock – September 2022