Letters – Issue 8

Tribute to Muriel Bradshaw

Some years ago while collecting material for what became the Oxford History of New Zealand Music I visited Muriel Bradshaw in Christchurch. She was the widow of the formidable Dr J C Bradshaw, first Professor of Music at Canterbury, organist and choirmaster of Christchurch Cathedral, the scourge of choirboys and to many a symbol of academic rectitude carried to extremes. Muriel Bradshaw was in complete contrast, witty, lively, responsive to personalities and deeply committed to the arts. She died on 2 September 1992 aged 92. Her letter on the subject of Tony Stones’s sculptures for Seville in your September issue must have been one of her last. Typically, she combined a plea for the wider dispersal of the sculptures of Cook and Kupe than the Wellington coastline with a personal reminiscence of having been present at the unveiling of the Cook monument at Ship Cove in 1912.

She was the daughter of Dr John Innes, principal of Marlborough High School (as it then was), a headmaster of immense breadth of learning; who had taught my parents, uncles and aunts and won their deep respect. She was one of the six foundation students at Helen Connon Hall at Canterbury University College named at the suggestion of her father to commemorate not only one of its first two women graduates but also to include a reference to Sir John Hall, the previous owner, whose unexpected amendment to the Electoral Bill in Parliament led to women gaining the vote.

She might be described as an early feminist although her chief concern was to make the path of a woman scholar and writer less arduous and difficult in those between‑the‑war years. She had many associations with writers – her letters on literary topics crop up in the most unexpected places. She had a passion for attractively written New Zealand social history. She and her sister Margaret set up the Dr John Innes Scholarships at Canterbury in memory of their father, who had graduated there in 1880. In 1977 she gave a fine classical organ to the School of Music in memory of her husband.

As Emeritus Professor John Ritchie said in his funeral tribute: ‘Muriel Bradshaw knew very well how to live’. One would almost say she knew when to stop. Her practicality knew no bounds. It was Muriel Bradshaw who drove a car until she was nearly 90; it was Muriel Bradshaw who, having had a slight ‘turn’ at the wheel, disposed of the car, marched into the Traffic Department and surrendered her driver’s license to a surprised but admiring Inspector. She had completed her memoirs before her death and it is understood that she had made arrangements for their publication.

John M Thomson, Wellington




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