Candida Lycett Green: Poet Laureate’s daughter loved life and countryside

Candida Lycett Green and her husband Rupert with her father, Sir John Betjeman, right,  after her wedding at SS Peter & Paul Church, Wantage, in 1963

Candida Lycett Green and her husband Rupert with her father, Sir John Betjeman, right, after her wedding at SS Peter & Paul Church, Wantage, in 1963

First published in News

A WRITER, conservation campaigner and daughter of a great English poet has died of cancer aged 71.

Candida Lycett Green, from Uffington, was a journalist and author whose great passion was an appreciation of the beauty of England and its buildings, much like her late father, the former Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman.

She was hugely influenced by his prose and after his death edited his letters sent from homes in Farnborough, south of Wantage, and Uffington, with many invoking his love for the chalk downlands.

Her love for the countryside had also sprung from a childhood spent around horses and great landscapes in the south of the county.

She once remarked to our sister paper The Oxford Times that her horseback adventures – which stretched for miles around the country and lasted weeks at a time – “affirm my existence like no other way of life can”.

A first battle with cancer in 1999 only served to brighten her outlook. She said: “It is like seeing life in technicolour, having seen it in black and white. Everything is much more wonderful.”

And following her recovery she embarked on a 200-mile ride, on a horse named Bertie.

That took her from Bolton Abbey, near Skipton, North Yorkshire, passing through Wensleydale, Barnard Castle, Stanhope, Hepple to Ingram in Northumberland, raising £125,000 for the Abernethy Cancer Centre in Oxford’s Churchill Hospital in the process.

She wrote a book about the experience, adding to her many works on life in and around the countryside. Candida Rose Betjeman was born in Dublin on September 22, 1942, to parents Sir John Betjeman and Lady Penelope Chetwode.

Her father was a press attache at the British Embassy in the Irish Republic, but the family moved back to the UK in 1943, settling in the Oxfordshire-Berkshire border countryside. Her childhood was spent in Uffington, with her elder brother Paul. As a girl she explored the Berkshire Downs with her mother on horseback or in a cart.

In 1954 she was sent to board at St Mary’s School in Wantage.

Afterwards she moved to Oxford to study sculpture at the technical college, now Oxford Brookes University, and met journalist Richard Ingrams, one of the founders of the satirical magazine Private Eye.

She would join him, Willie Rushton and Andrew Osmond at the Edinburgh Festival in 1961, to sing in the Oxford Revue.

A move to London saw Mrs Lycett Green become a sub-editor at Queen magazine but she also moonlighted at Private Eye, helping to staple the copies together. Queen editor Jocelyn Stevens later found out and sacked her.

In 1962 she met fashion designer Rupert Lycett Green and they married in SS Peter & Paul Church, Wantage, on May 25, 1963.

In 1970 she went to Mexico to cover the World Cup from a woman’s point of view for the Evening Standard.

This was followed by her taking on Private Eye’s Nooks and Corners architectural column, stewarded by her father before her, for which she was the writer Piloti, and she later wrote for The Oldie, which Richard Ingrams founded in 1992, as well as being a contributing editor for Vogue. In 1984 her father died and Mrs Lycett Green took on the daunting task of editing his letters. The task consumed much of the rest of the 1980s.

In 1999 she was diagnosed with breast cancer, with the initial stress made worse by the fact she could not get hold of specialists at first. In 2002 she wryly remarked: “Never ever get cancer in the summer holidays.”

Her book Over the Hills and Far Away, the memoir of her ride from Yorkshire to Northumberland, later included a heartfelt tribute to the staff at the Churchill Hospital in Oxford, who had treated her.

At the end of last year she was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer. She died on August 19. She is survived by her husband and their children, daughters Lucy, Imogen and Endellion, and sons David and John.

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11:20am Monday 28th July 2014

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