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Obituary: A Grateful Farewell to a Great Lady of Guildford

Published on: 3 May, 2021
Updated on: 5 May, 2021

Auriol Earle

Auriol Earle, died on Friday, April 30, in the Guildford home where she had lived since 1961.

Over those 60 years, Auriol channelled her considerable energy and creativity into Guildford life. In the 1960s, with a growing number of young children in the borough, she noticed how families struggled through the holiday times.

With her friend Pauline Gough she set up a pioneering scheme of holiday clubs, providing sports and leisure activities for young families. Guildford Holiday Fun offered judo, archery, athletics, art and craft classes for a nominal fee to hundreds of schoolchildren by mobilising a small army of enthusiastic volunteers.

Guildford had seen nothing like this, and her clubs attracted national media attention, a typical example of the power of her charisma and organisational skills.

Auriol, born in Devon in 1928, was an accomplished horsewoman, in her youth winning a cabinet-sized collection of silver cups and shields in gymkhanas across the South West of England.

She was among the first of her generation of women to attend university, graduating from Exeter University with an honours degree in English literature. Auriol put her qualification to use in Guildford when she set up a general studies module for the science and engineering students at the then new University of Surrey.

She had been shocked to discover the aspiring engineers and scientists of the future could sometimes barely construct a coherent sentence, knew next to nothing about the humanities and risked graduating with very much less than a rounded education.

Her interest in education was matched by that of her husband-to-be Eric. After an impossibly romantic encounter involving trains, coinciding job interviews and Waterloo station, they married in Devon in 1952.

Eric’s appointment to the Colonial Education Service resulted in a posting to the West African colony of The Gold Coast. In what was soon to become Ghana, Auriol threw herself into the life of the various education communities, producing a memorable production of Macbeth that included its translation into Twi, the principal language of Ghanaians.

She also established a school for the children of the colonial community and somehow found time to bring three children into the world.

Returning to England in 1961, the home in Guildford was set up by dividing a large house in two. One half was taken by lifelong friends, Bill and Nick Smith, with their three children. Eric and Auriol filled the other half by adding a fourth child to their family.

To say the physical and cultural landscape of Guildford would not be as it is now, but for Auriol’s input is no exaggeration. She helped save the Rodboro Buildings, supported the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, the Electric Theatre and many other features of the town centre.

She was an active member of the Liberal party, and represented the people of Worplesdon ward as Liberal Democrat councillor for several years.

Alas, in her last years she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and retreated more into the home she had made with Eric. In April, the family gathered to celebrate the 69th anniversary of their wedding. Weeks later, she turned 93 but in an increasingly frail state.

Auriol is survived by Eric, her four children, Wendy, Jennifer, Roderic and Patrick, and is remembered with love and affection by her grandchildren, Chloe, Samuel, Joe, Rosa, Niall, Hannah and Eva.

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test 4 Responses to Obituary: A Grateful Farewell to a Great Lady of Guildford

  1. Sue Doughty Reply

    May 4, 2021 at 7:35 am

    Thank you for this piece about Auriol. Those of us who only met her in later years would have been unaware of all of her considerable contributions to the communities which make up Guildford throughout her life here.

    Sue Doughty is the former Lib Dem MP for Guildford

  2. Amy Rice (Guildford Institute Manager) Reply

    May 4, 2021 at 2:01 pm

    On behalf of everyone at and involved with The Guildford Institute, I wanted to express my deepest condolences to Auriol’s family during this time, particularly to Eric, who has always been a wonderfully warm supporter of the Institute.

    It is clear that Auriol made an extremely significant contribution not just to the Guildford Institute over the years, but also to the wider community. She was clearly very determined, strong, accomplished and Guildford has certainly lost someone extremely special since Auriol’s passing.

  3. Rod Earle Reply

    May 5, 2021 at 12:51 pm

    A friend from her University of Surrey days, Margaret Westwood, sent us a moving tribute on a card, part of which read: “Her incredible energy and drive was an inspiration to us all in General Studies, and she certainly gave more than anyone might be expected to give as an ‘associate lecturer’.

    “She fizzed with ideas for connecting the science and engineering students to the arts. She organised ‘Focus on the Arts’ weeks and encouraged creative writing by the least likely…

    “Her dramatic interests led her to ventures such as the very first play for video, Tom Stoppard’s ‘Professional Foul’. As production manager she astounded us all by her success in persuading ‘authorities’ to meet her requirements (she came into my office one day and said “where can I find a jumbo jet?” And I said “try Heathrow” – and of course she got her plane for filming on a Sunday morning).

    “Auriol’s later projects included a fabulous ‘son et lumiere’ at the castle – I could go on and on listing her many and various achievements. But best of all Auriol was a lovely person. Kind, caring and generous…. I shall always think of her as ‘The Woman Who Got Things Done’.”

    We loved this tribute so much we have added it as an epigram to her funeral service leaflet. Thanks Margaret. A true friend.

  4. Sally Stringer Reply

    June 19, 2021 at 12:33 pm

    I am so sorry to hear of the death of my distant cousin Auriol. I met her and her husband Eric on a brief family tree link up and she will always hold a special place in my heart. A lady with a wonderful sense of humour and a great deal of compassion.
    My love to her family.

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