Moyra Caldecott obituary

Other lives: Poet and novelist fascinated by the ancient world

My friend Moyra Caldecott, who has died aged 87, was a prolific writer of poems and novels, creating epic tales of adventure set in the extraordinary worlds of ancient Egypt, ancient Britain, ancient Crete and pre-Roman Bath.

Her first novel was published in early 50s and she went on to see more than 30 books make it into print. Her best-known work is the Guardians of the Tall Stones (1994) trilogy, inspired by the world heritage site of Avebury in Wiltshire. She was fascinated by prehistory and by the Celts, but was also knowledgable about other traditions, as her non-fiction collections, including Crystal Legends, Myths of the Sacred Tree, and Mythical Journeys, Legendary Quests, illustrated.

Another well-received trilogy, about ancient Egypt, focused on Akhenaten and Hatshepsut and resulted in Moyra being contacted by the pop star Tina Turner, who paid for her to accompany her to Egypt, acting as a personal guide to the ancient sites – an experience that Moyra spoke of with great fondness.

Born in Pretoria, South Africa, Moyra studied at Natal University, where she was awarded a degree in English and philosophy and a master’s in English literature. In 1950 she moved to Cape Town and became a lecturer at the university there, where she met Oliver Caldecott, an anti-apartheid campaigner. When the crackdown on the anti-apartheid movement made it too dangerous for him to stay, they moved to the UK in 1951 and married.

Oliver worked in publishing as chief editor for Penguin Fiction in the 1960s, before starting his own publishing company, Wildwood House, in the 70s. But Moyra, who started to write in her late 40s, was published on her own merits, building a reputation as a vivid writer on the adventures and experiences of the inner world of human consciousness as well as the outer world of history and society.

In 1987, with Oliver’s health failing, the Caldecotts moved to Bath, a city whose Romano-British heritage she wrote about in two of her novels, The Winged Man (1993) and The Waters of Sul (1997). Oliver had become an artist in his later years, creating pictures that Moyra treasured, and she herself began to take up pottery, batik and stained glass making.

She was also a founder member of the (now dormant) Bladud Society, dedicated to raising awareness of Bath’s Celtic heritage, and in her later years she liked to perform her visionary poetry at local open mic events in the city.

She was made an honorary bard of Bath in 2005 and a memoir of her life, Multi-Dimensional Life, was published on her 80th birthday by the Bath-based firm Mushroom Books.

Oliver died in 1989, and their son, Stratford, predeceased her in 2014. She is survived by two children, Rachel and Julian.