Warm tributes paid at funeral of Shrewsbury professor

Warm tributes were paid at the funeral of a Shrewsbury professor who played an important role in setting up the town's university centre and developing education in Africa.

The funeral of Professor Lalage Bown was held in Shrewsbury and livestreamed for people at home
The funeral of Professor Lalage Bown was held in Shrewsbury and livestreamed for people at home

Emeritus Professor Lalage Bown OBE had been a tireless champion of the right for access to education, and especially women’s literacy, right up until her death in December aged 94.

Her funeral was held at Emstrey Crematorium in Shrewsbury on Friday.

Rachel Dale, one of Prof Bown's six nephews and nieces, said her aunt would have liked that fact that women took all the roles at the service.

Rachel herself took on the role of minister at short notice while the team from funeral director WRR Pugh & Son was also led by a woman.

The eulogy was read by Rachel's mother Eira Bown in place of Prof Bown's only surviving sibling, Hugh, who was too ill to attend. He was among the many people watching a livestream of the ceremony from their homes across the world.

Hugh said he was saddened to be the only one of four siblings left who had enjoyed growing up in Hayling Island.

"I followed her out to Africa with thoughts of bringing independence and self-governance," he said.

"Lalage saw all the people as potential students."

Professor Brown was hailed as instrumental in setting up Shrewsbury's University Centre

Prof Bown worked for 30 years in Africa before retiring to Shrewsbury where she not only continued her studies but became an eminent member of the Rotary Club of Shrewsbury.

Professor Anna Sutton, who retired in 2020 as provost of University Centre Shrewsbury, said her great friend had played a vital role in organising university education in the town.

"She greeted all her visitors with a cheerful 'oh splendid'," Prof Sutton said.

"I set aside an hour to talk to her but emerged from her home in Dogpole four hours later. She had such wonderful tales to tell.

"She became a part of our university family and her support and enthusiasm knew no bounds, coming to public events and lectures."

Prof Sutton said her friend's speech on receiving her honorary doctorate at St Chad's Church in 2018 had "captivated" her audience.

"As she walked through the audience the young people stood and applauded her," she said.

Prof Bown was aged 94

"They recognised that this 90-year-old woman burned with enthusiasm and had led an extraordinary life.

"I felt the warmth of her encouragement and I felt here was a woman who I wish I had known much earlier.

"We were never going to be ready to part from her and her memory will abide with us as long as we live," said Prof Sutton.

Prof Bown was also a founder member in 1991 of the Shrewsbury Town Centre Residents’ Association, a member of the Harlescott Townswomen’s Guild and an editor of West Shropshire Talking Newspaper.

She was a Friend of the Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery and was a committee member for three years from 2007 to 2010, producing the booklet commemorating 25 years of the Friends of the Museum.

She gained six Honorary Doctorates in all, was awarded an OBE in 1977 and named a fellow of the Educational Institute of Scotland and a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 1991. In 2009 she was inducted into the International Hall of Fame for Adult and Continuing Education.

She remained an active member of many boards, trusts, committees and councils concerned with higher education, adult education, literacy and community enrichment in Africa, the Commonwealth and the UK, including being a life member of the African Adult Education Association.

Prof Bown also fostered two daughters from Nigeria, Taiwo Oluwatomisin and Kehinde Akin, who lived with her from the age of five from 1962.

Reflecting her love of Africa, the funeral service ended to the tune of No More Sorrows, by the South African choir group Ladysmith Black Mambazo.

The family invited donations to be made to Womankind Worldwide at womankind.org.uk.

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