Obituary: Frances Donaldson

AS A WRITER, Frankie Donaldson spent her life as an explorer of a world which was never quite her own; she always felt that she and her husband, Jack, occupied a sort of 'no man's land between the smart and the intellectual', writes Lord Healey. She had the combination of a warm heart and a cold eye which is ideal for a biographer.

The first half of her life was often lonely and difficult. As a child in digs when her father Freddy Lonsdale was making his way as a writer of plays and musical comedies during the First World War, she had only two friends of her own age - Daphne Du Maurier and Leonora (stepdaughter of PG) Wodehouse. She was always her father's favourite daughter; but it was a bitter- sweet relationship. Once when she was chatting to him as he shaved he said: 'Don't keep finishing your sentences - I'm not a bloody fool.'

When her father first struck oil with his play Aren't We All, he made her his companion as he pursued his rake's progress through the social whirl of Noel Coward and Mr Cochrane's Young Ladies.

Then her mother manoeuvred her into a loveless marriage with a rich man 20 years her senior who did not like women. She left him after four empty years and married Jack Donaldson. Four fulfilling years with him were followed by six years' separation as he served abroad right through the war.

Similar experiences scarred, and ultimately wrecked, the lives of her two sisters. They led Frankie to start a new creative life as a farmer and writer. The difficulties of her early life had given her intelligence a hard and penetrating edge as well as a gem-like radiance. Yet she also had a depth of human understanding which rejected any temptation to make moral judgements either of her subjects such as Edward VIII and PG Wodehouse or of her friends such as Evelyn Waugh and Tony Crosland. The same toughness led her to drive herself and Jack in summer weekends some 70 miles each way to their house in Sussex when she was over 80 and suffering from cancer. Her humanity and understanding made it a profound pleasure to be her friend.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Guru Careers: Graduate Resourcer / Recruitment Account Executive

£18k + Bonus: Guru Careers: We are seeking a bright, enthusiastic and internet...

Reach Volunteering: Chair and trustees sought for YMCA Bolton

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Bolton YMCA is now a...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher

£150 - £180 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: Geography Teacher Geography teach...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine