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Local Stratford-upon-Avon historian Patricia Anne McFarland, who has died aged 94, will be fondly remembered

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LOCAL historian Patricia Anne McFarland, who for many years was at the centre of Stratford cultural life, died aged 94 last Tuesday at the Cedar Lawn Care Home, Stratford.

Born Patricia Tilley in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Pat grew up in Oakville, the eldest born of Fred and Adele Tilley, and spent a happy childhood there with her siblings Barbara and Douglas (both now deceased).

She graduated with a BA from St Hilda’s College in the University of Toronto in 1948, her fellow graduates including both her future husbands – John Gallagher, the father of Tim and Jamie, and then William (Bill) McFarland (deceased 2012), whom she married in 1966. She left Canada with her sons for Stratford-upon-Avon to join Bill – who had left Canada in 1950 – and his children, thereby creating a blended family of seven.

Having previously spent a career with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in Toronto through the 1950s and early 1960s, rising to the position of story editor, Pat threw herself into the artistic and community life of Stratford, becoming involved in the Stratford Society (twice serving as chairwoman), Holy Trinity Church and many more organisations, and was an avid theatre- and concert-goer throughout her life.

Patricia McFarland (53704738)
Patricia McFarland (53704738)

She took her MA in local history at Warwick University in the early 1990s. She was invited to give a lecture based on her thesis to the Dugdale Society which subsequently, in 1996, published A Dynasty of Town Clerks – the Hunt family of Stratford-upon-Avon. She had previously produced two volumes of Stratford-upon-Avon in Old Picture Postcards, (1983 and 1996) and in 1990, wrote the definitive monograph on the watercolourist who chronicled the late-Victorian and early 20th century Stratford: Mr Quatremain’s Stratford. She contributed to the Warwickshire History Society Journal, and, for a period, a weekly cultural column including theatre reviews to the Stratford Herald.

In addition to raising a large family with Bill, Pat and he shared a great love of the Lake District, for a time owning a getaway cottage in Grasmere, as well as of France (particularly the Dordogne) and kept up her Canadian connections – family, friends and god-daughters – with almost annual visits to Toronto until infirmity rendered them impossible.

In their retirement years, she and Bill became best friends with a number of their West Street community, and she will be sorely missed by them. Her family is extremely grateful to all who ‘looked in’ on Pat after Bill’s death, and latterly to the staff of and medical teams associated with Cedar Lawn, who took such great care of her in the period leading up to her death.

Remembering his friend Pat, Lindsay MacDonald, Stratford Society chairman, said: “Patricia was a dedicated supporter of the activities of the society for many years, especially the campaigns to safeguard Stratford’s precious historical heritage and river setting. She was also the founder editor of the newsletter, Talk of the Town, which she ran for about ten years. She was always good company and was held in high esteem by all who knew her.”

Pat leaves her family, son Timothy, daughter-in-law Jessica (now Mellor, widow of her son James, deceased 2014), stepsons Paul and Charles, as well as her grandson Nicholas and step-grandsons William, Thomas and Takuto – and her great-grandchildren Joseph, Asta and Annabel. Her cherished step-daughter, Cecil, pre-deceased her in 2012.

Patricia will be cremated at Oakley Wood on 7th January. Donations, not flowers, to the Shakespeare Hospice.

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