19 January 2013

Ann Hatton (1921–2013)

Earlier this week I learned the sad news of Ann Hatton's death on 11 January this year. It was Ann who had enthusiastically and very helpfully provided me with so much information about the artist Karl Salsbury Wood, particularly from family photos, postcards, and watercolours: Ann's mother Nellie (née Radford) was Wood's cousin, with whom he kept in regular contact.

Ann's father Colan Harrison had moved to Canada before World War I and worked as a logger and a cook before joining the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He returned to England with the Canadian Regiment and guarded German prisoners of war, and while visiting his sister he met Nellie, married her in 1919, and left for a new life with his wife, sister and mother to a farm in Bowden, Alberta, where Ann was born one very cold November day in 1921. There was no school nearby, so Ann and her siblings were taught by their aunt; it was a very harsh life with poor facilities and the family decided to return to England in 1930.

Karl Wood's representation of Abbey Farm, Renhold, Bedfordshire, where Ann and her siblings were brought up

Ann qualified as an SRN during World War II, and in the course of her work met Igor, whom she married in December 1945. She was a relief matron at Uppingham School sanatorium for eighteen years, and a number of the pupils there maintained contact with her for many years. She also spent nineteen years delivering 'meals on wheels', and was active in fund raising for the church and for charities.

It was only by a series of fortunate coincidences in the mid-nineties that I met Ann: I'd been researching Karl Wood's life with a view to publishing a biography, but there were some missing links during his youth. The local paper made a few column inches out of my appeal for information, and I was quite surprised to receive a phone call from Alan Guest, who by chance had bought a few linocuts of Wood's from the Usher Art Gallery in Lincoln, and who knew Marc Oxley (the owner of a fine art business in Uppingham, Rutland), who knew Ann and was aware that she was a relative of Karl Wood's.

So shortly after learning this I found myself in Uppingham one fine summer's day sitting in front of a table with a host of Wood's postcards, photos and sketches on the patio of Ann's home, recording her wonderfully informative conversation: the missing pieces of the biographical jigsaw were slowly forming a fuller picture, and there were now images of a kilted Wood in his Seaforth Highlanders uniform, or in Nellie's garden with cap, cane and bowtie, etc. And Ann (who had a great affection for Karl) told me to take the relevant postcards and photos home to photograph at my leisure and send back to her, which I thought showed a lovely trusting spirit.

Karl Wood in Nellie's garden, date unknown

My brief book was therefore greatly enhanced by the images that Ann supplied, and it was also enhanced by the knowledge of Wood's activities in his teenage years and during World War I which I gleaned from the postcards. And I'm pleased that Ann was able to make it to Gainsborough for the exhibition of Wood's local paintings put on by the Gainsborough and District Heritage Society.

Still on the subject of art, but a different artist, it seems scarcely credible now that I'd never heard of Louis Wain until Ann showed me a few reproductions of his cats.

It is a great pleasure to have known Ann Hatton, and I shall always remember her warmth of spirit, her keen intelligence, and her (slightly mischievous) sense of humour.

(My thanks to Ann's son John for supplying the biographical information and photo.)

The link below is to my online biography of Karl Salsbury Wood:

Windmill Wood

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