Lives Remembered: Joyce Purcell

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The Independent Online

Joyce Purcell MBE, who died on 15 January aged 99, helped set up and run the British American Paralimentary Group in the 1950s and later in life became a Sufi teacher. "Life is absolutely wonderful and there are so many things to do that you can't come to the end of what the possibilites are," she said at the age of 90 .

Joyce Lendrum was born on 21 April 1910 and was educated at a girl's public school, St Mary's Wantage, and later at King's College, London. Finding many journalists out of work she started a Commission Agency, selling articles to help them. As a sideline, the Agency also escorted people around London. She enjoyed an active social life and her particular passion was motor racing. Her great friend was Louis Klementaski, who raced in England and France in the 1920s and '30s.

Thinking it was time to settle down she married Ronald Purcell, who later became Chief Scientific Advisor to the Admiralty. They had two daughters, one of whom, Anna, died at the age of 15. Ronald and Joyce were divorced in 1950; she then worked for 20 years in the Houses of Parliament as secretary to Sir Howard d'Eguville, who founded and ran the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. With him she travelled to India; one of the highlights was having tea with Gandhi. She also met Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Nehru and later Annie Besant, all of whom had a great influence on her.

Sir Howard also founded the British American Parliamentary Group; when he retired she ran the group with a committee headed by the Foreign Minister. It was for this work that she was awarded an MBE.

During her time in London she became involved with the great Sufi Master Pir Vilayat Khan, with whom she worked for many years. She was given the Sufi name, Rabia, by which many of her friends still call her. She was particularly interested in the meeting of East and West. In Sufism she found enormous freedom of thought and of life, of appreciation to see the beauty and love in all things. She also attended Quaker meetings and meditation groups. Meditation she found especially helpful as the physical body became less active.

After London she moved to Bradford-on-Avon in Wiltshire in the 1980s, where she started a community to study philosophy, healing and sufism. Eventually, she found it too strenuous and went to live with her daughter Stephanie in Germany. However, after two years, she missed her friends so much that she returned to England, where she remained until in her nineties she became too frail and returned to Germany to be looked after by her daughter.

She loved music, particularly the cello, she wrote poetry, painted and wove tapestries. At 82 she took a physics degree for the Open University. Above all she loved people and was interested in everything new, particularly philosophising and discussing ideas spiritual,scientific and political. The joy of disagreeing "meant you learnt so much more!" It was this enthusiasm and her sense of humour that kept her mind so youthful, right up to her final week.

Amanda Relph