Monday 15 November 2010
Further to your obituary of Honor Frost (8 November), for many years Honor had a house in Senglea facing the Royal Navy's Bakery in Vittoriosa that became Malta's new Maritime Museum after 1979, writes
David Boswell, Kellogg College, Oxford.
The house also faced a garage in which the last harbour dghajsa was being constructed on the island, and she encouraged the pioneering research of Joseph Muscat, then a primary school teacher, and its publication in The Mariner's Mirror, which saw fruit in his secondment to develop the work of the museum and many authoritative publications on the variety, design, use and associated art of Malta's vernacular vessels as well as the ships of the Order of St John. She also encouraged local groups in serious archaeological dives to explore coastal wrecks and recover their stone anchors.
Honor's vivacious manner and stylish dress was most engaging and, in a short maroon cloak, she resembled an exotic bird when she came to call in Mdina. In London, her Welbeck Street home had been inherited from her guardian, Wilfred Evill, who had lived "above the shop", as did Honor under her married name of Cumming. Evill had been Stanley Spencer's solicitor and, with Tooth's Gallery, had kept the artist going through his complicated and costly domestic life.
Those lucky to enjoy Honor's notable hospitality had the added treat of her elegant drawing room decked with drawings and sculpture by Leon Underwood and other contemporary artists, and the silvery dining room hung with some of Spencer's finest paintings. Many more have enjoyed them in the public exhibitions of the artist's work generously lent by Honor and credited to Evill.
In one of her last public appearances Honor was perched for the TV cameras over the Pharos of Alexandria, the submerged plinths of which were yielding up sphinxes and other Romano-Egyptian objects to her obvious delight. As one of the founders of systematic and well-published submarine archaeology this seemed a fitting envoi to a lively pioneer, entrepreneur and catalyst for so much that has since materialised.
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