Mary Ingoldby obituary

Other lives: Playwright and sound archivist who recorded oral histories for many organisations

My friend Mary Ingoldby, who has died of cancer aged 63, was a playwright and sound archivist, and was adored by people she met at every stage of her colourful life.

She devised and produced tapes, talks and exhibitions for the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol on a wide range of subjects – including Palestine, Gibraltar, slavery and Inuit culture – and recorded oral histories for Southmead and Frenchay hospitals in Bristol, and for libraries, museums and private collections.

She was fascinated by the people she interviewed – old soldiers, laundry workers, eccentric types from the outposts of the British Empire – and remembered one woman saying: “Of course an elephant was sent to pick us up at the station.”

Realising an old asylum in Bristol was the original Beaufort war hospital, where the artist Stanley Spencer had worked in 1915, she spent four years researching the staff and patients to produce an archive and exhibition. She later wrote a clever and intensely moving play about it, Stanley at the Beaufort, which was so admired by the Bristol Old Vic that it helped stage several performances, three in the Sandham memorial chapel in Burghclere, Hampshire, in 2017, in front of Spencer’s famous war paintings and murals.

Mary was born and raised in Southampton. Her father, Reg, worked in insurance, her mother, Audrey (nee Gray), was a beauty consultant. Her elder sister, Grace Ingoldby, became a well-known poet and novelist. Mary went to the Ursuline convent school in Tildonk, Belgium, then to Leweston school in Dorset, and sat her A-levels at St Clare’s, Oxford, in the early 1970s.

She ran the lights for fringe productions at the Latchmere and Gate theatres in London before moving to Bristol in 1986 and becoming a regular reporter on Radio 4’s Afternoon Shift magazine programme.

Friends remember Mary as a firecracker of fun and good humour with a phenomenal ear for accents and comic phrases and a penchant for devising parlour games – Lemon Golf involved citrus fruit and umbrellas.

She was an enthusiastic wild swimmer, loved gardening, art, books, music, poetry and walking, and adored parties and singing along to scratchy old pop singles.

She is survived by her husband, Pip Morgan, whom she married in 1985, and their children, Beatrice and Louis. Grace died in 2005.

Mark Ellen

The GuardianTramp

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