Mavis Johns obituary

Other Lives: Infant school teacher who was much involved in the musical world of her local community

My mother, Mavis Johns, who has died aged 95, was a teacher who brought her passion for music-making to her community in north Wales.

Mavis was born in Battersea, south London, to Dorothy (nee Chainey) and her husband, Harry Bedingfield, who worked in the building trade. Her older sister, Kathleen, died as a teenager, and she had a younger sister, June. Mavis’s Roman Catholic upbringing in Essex informed her long life and work. At St Angela’s school in Forest Gate and then the Dominican Convent school in Chingford, she was talented and adventurous, enlisting friends in escapades that got them into frequent trouble with the nuns.

After leaving school she trained as a teacher at St Charles College (later Digby Stuart) in London; her first job was teaching infants at the Grange Ursuline school in Brentwood, Essex. Outside school she ran Brownie packs and adored country dancing, dressmaking, poetry and drama. She met Paul Johns at a folk dance at Cecil Sharp House in London; he was a recent Oxford graduate and keen amateur musician, working in a boys’ remand hostel while he decided what to do with his life. Mavis soon became part of this decision, and she and Paul married in 1954.

My sister Nicky and I were born in rural Yorkshire, where Paul was teaching. Later, in Stamford in Lincolnshire, Paul taught at Blackfriars school, while Mavis returned to infant teaching at St Augustine’s RC school. Her mother helped with the five children, who now included Julia, Patrick and Elisabeth.

Paul’s teaching took us to Coventry, where Mavis taught at St John Vianney RC school, and then to Sutton Coldfield. Mavis, who had an amazing zest for living and always said she would bloom wherever she was planted, made family life into an extraordinarily creative project ­– sewing our clothes, devising games and jamborees in the school holidays and organising us into a family recorder consort that toured the music festivals of the Midlands.

In 1974 the family began a new shared enterprise in the tiny community of Gwyddelwern, north Wales, running the village post office. Mavis and Paul learned Welsh, made friends quickly and soon had so many requests to teach music that they abandoned shop life, never really being business-minded, and moved into the house next door, installing pianos upstairs and downstairs.

They were much loved as musical ambassadors, helping many grateful children and adults with exams and Eisteddfodau performances, organising recorder groups and performing locally. They were also enthusiastic participants in Lancaster University’s summer schools and many recorder gatherings around the country.

After Paul died in 2012 Mavis moved to Ruthin in north Wales, teaching music into her 90s, making new friends, reading voraciously, playing Scrabble and reciting poetry by heart. She spent her last year in a care home in Llangollen, missing her cherished family and friends because of Covid restrictions.

She is survived by her five children, eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and by her sister June.

Cathy Johns

The GuardianTramp

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