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The hidden talents of Dr Horder

27 July, 2017 — By John Gulliver

Elizabeth June Horder – doctor, seamstress, viola player… and also an artist

TWO striking paintings, nestling on a table in the nave of a church met people gathering on Saturday afternoon to “celebrate” the life of a woman doctor who had lived and practised in the area for nearly 70 years.

They couldn’t help but catch my eye – one showed a woman in a wheelchair in the foreground, the other an elderly woman reading a newspaper – and both revealing a raw talent by the artist.

Who was the artist? The woman more than 150 people – most of them middle-aged, and with that very English look of middle liberal-England – had come to remember: Elizabeth June Horder.

But few – if anyone at the gathering in St Mary’s Church, Primrose Hill – knew that Elizabeth, both a talented doctor, an imaginative seamstress as well as a proficient viola player, could also express her emotions through a brush and canvas.

Even her family didn’t know until by accident they discovered these two paintings in a cupboard in Mrs Horder’s home in Regent’s Park Road, after her death in March aged 97.

“It was a complete surprise to find them,” her son William told me.

Samples of Mrs Horder’s work on display in the church

He said she had often praised her art tutor at Oxford, Marion Richardson, and so may have painted them in the early 40s, and then put them away, hardly ever to touch a paint brush again.

She may also have deferred to her late husband, John, another general practitioner, who had a reputation as a very good amateur painter of watercolour landscapes. He died in 2012.

In several tributes to Elizabeth Horder – both from children and grandchildren, a neighbour, Mary Wylie, and one of her old medical colleagues at the James Wigg practice in Kentish Town, Lord Nic Rea, a well-known member of the Wigg team – she emerged as a woman with many skills, especially with her Singer sewing machine on which she made most of her costumes that women friends envied, and one who was “not self absorbed”, a woman who lived wanting to help people.

Unsurprisingly, she was a passionate supporter of the National Health Service, a Childline volunteer and helped victims of
torture.

Everyone was smartly turned out, some of the men sporting mild coloured bow-ties, with friends and family members who had flown in from New York and several countries in Europe as well as old medical colleagues, among them Dr Robert McGibbon, Dr Rachel Miller, and John Carrier, a former local NHS chairman.

It was all to honour a modest, self-effacing woman, who many knew – and then when they saw her paintings and heard about her life, discovered there was much they hadn’t known.

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