Pat Watt was the founder and first chairman of the Margery Allingham Society. She was an avid reader and collector of mystery fiction and a subscriber to Geoff Bradley’s magazine CADS (Crime and Detective Stories); and it was in the pages of CADS that she first floated the idea of a society to celebrate Margery Allingham. In its early years the Society was more casually run than it is now and Pat did not always have enough time to give it. Nevertheless, she kept it ticking over and in 1992 brought off a considerable coup, the installation of a plaque to Margery Allingham on D’Arcy House, Margery’s long-time home in Tolleshunt D’Arcy. Joyce Allingham organised a splendid village party for the occasion and she and Pat shared the honours of the day.
Pat remained chairman of the Society until the protracted illness that preceded her death made it necessary to replace her. She fell ill in April 2001, not long after Joyce Allingham’s funeral which she had attended. She contracted pneumococcal meningitis followed by septicaemia. The resulting epilepsy caused brain damage and to the general distress she spent the remainng two years of her life in a coma.
Pat was born on 10 June 1929 at Radlett in Hertfordshire, and she spent her childhood there and in St Albans. Her father was from Radlett and her mother from Ipswich: to this latter circumstance she attributed her ‘round Suffolk face’. She started her working career as a medical secretary at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Bart’s Hospitals, both of which remained dear to her memory. Later she became a teacher, training at Barnet and going on to teach secretarial skills at Kingsway Princeton College, near Covent Garden. Here she was ideally placed for visits to the theatre and the opera, which became a standard feature of her life at that time.
Here, too, she met her future husband, Ian Watt, whom she married on 23 March 1963. They had a daughter, Jean, now the mother of two young sons, Cameron, old enough for Pat to have known him, and Miles, born only weeks before his grandmother died. Ian died in December 1998, after surrendering increasingly to Parkinson’s Disease. Pat nursed him bravely and loyally and missed him sorely after his death.
In the mid-1970s Pat decided to train as a chartered accountant and was articled to Ball Baker Carnaby Deed in Holborn. After some time as a practising accountant she returned to teaching, joining Redbridge Technical College, where she taught accounting until her early retirement in 1982.
She went on to become a force in the political life of Brent North, the constituency in which her Wembley home is situated. During the Thatcher years, when the Conservatives were riding high, she worked assiduously for the party and for Sir Rhodes Boyson, the local MP (who became a friend and attended the memorial gathering that preceded Pat’s cremation). She also served on charitable committees, becoming Chairman of the League of Friends of Wembley Hospital and secretary of a therapeutic workroom for elderly women. She contributed generously to charities and collected door-to-door for cancer research and the annual Poppy Appeal.
She loved her dogs, Rabbie, the long-lived Jack Russell, who went on hotel breaks with her, and Tubby, the little rough-haired terrier who was her companion after Ian’s death. She dined out regularly and shared with Ian a love of gourmet food and wine. She was a great fan of Jamie Oliver and, more practically, had shares in Adnam’s, which gave her access to good wines at a discount. She also loved Formula One motor racing, one of the few things she considered worth watching on television.
Pat was a lively, garrulous person, combative and opinionated, with clear-cut views on controversial issues and a tendency to challenge the accepted wisdom of the time. In common with many of her generation she disliked much of the social change that has overtaken this country in recent decades. In particular, she had no time for political correctness. After Ian’s death, she became very pessimistic about the problems of the modern world and this country in particular, and some of her natural buoyancy left her. Sadly, she was not given the chance to bounce back, as, in time, she might have done.
The Margery Allingham Society was for Pat an enduring achievement of which she had reason to be proud. It is one for which she will surely be remembered.