PATSY DALTON was for several decades a leading journalist in her field and a writer of short stories. She was possessed of a remarkably astute brain and a directness of speech which allowed her to express her views incisively yet without offence. In 1981 she became the first woman Chairman of the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, a role she filled with enthusiasm and great effectiveness.
She was born Patricia Brougham in London in 1919 and educated at Croydon High School and Kensington College. Her father was an engineer and a businessman, who experienced both good and hard times, which taught Patsy much about life and gave her a respect for the world of business not always shared by members of her profession. Following a spell working as a continuity girl in a film studio, she joined the Daily Sketch. During the Second World War she served in the US Navy's London press office.
After the war she worked for various magazines before settling to woman's journalism, in which she carved out a distinguished career. She joined Woman in the early Sixties, soon becoming Associate Editor and regularly standing in for her editor, Barbi Boxall. She was published under several pseudonyms and in 1974 wrote a novel Payment for Silence, under the name Anne Rivers.
In 1948 she married Pip Dalton and they both joined the newly formed Sherlock Holmes Society of London in 1952. As for many others, it changed their lives. Both were immediately at home amidst this intelligent and witty crowd. Lasting close friendships were made as 'the game was afoot'.
The unique atmosphere of the society had much to do with the Daltons, who successively held a number of posts in it. When the society made its pilgrimages to Switzerland, which it did on five occasions, the first being in 1968, members traditionally took a Holmesian role and spent the entire trip in costume. With her splendid Victorian dresses and wonderful hats, Patsy Dalton set high standards of style and period accuracy. She was at home either as Holmes's faithful housekeeper Mrs Hudson, or more latterly as the graceful, aristocratic Duchess of Holderness. When the Duchess donned her Victorian swimming costume to take the waters at Leukerbad, she still wore her tiara. Like most members, she never took herself too seriously.
When her husband died, she took over his role as joint editor of the society's prestigious journal. Her successor, whom Patsy tutored in the art of editing, recalls a distinguished journalist telling her that she was being taught by the best. Having served as chairman for three years from 1981, she continued to take an active role in the affairs of the society.
About four years ago she became seriously ill with rheumatoid arthritis and spent most of the next two years in hospital. Only her famous willpower, her inspirational courage and the remarkable support of her lifelong friend Jo Spencer kept her alive. Against all the odds, she left hospital and was once again free to indulge her great fondness for the Sherlock Holmes Society by joining the society's trip to Bordeaux, Cognac and Montpelier last year.Reuse content