Harriet Forster obituary

Enthusiastic Oxford schoolgirl with a talent for drama, sport and music

Harriet Forster’s inquiring mind and infectious enthusiasm for life made an indelible impression on all who met her. Animated, irrepressible, vibrant and intelligent, Harriet, who has died in an accident, aged nine, was a force of nature.

One of Harriet’s chief gifts was a profound sense of fairness, combined with a gentleness and politeness that was deeply attractive. But she wasn’t a shrinking violet – far from it. She was highly articulate and could be determined, stubborn even – and never satisfied with less than a full and plausible answer.

Although Harriet was unstoppably chatty, her conversation was never pointless but always sharply focused, and aimed at getting the most out of any encounter – drawing information out of people, as well as imparting her own brand of wisdom.

Harriet was born in Oxford, the youngest of three children of Holly (nee Foreman), a bar manager, and Roger Forster, a boat builder. She lived in Weston on the Green and was educated at the Church of England primary school in the village of Kirtlington, near Oxford, where I am the rector.

She was proud to go on to attend the Dragon school, Oxford, even though it entailed getting up at 6am six mornings a week and numerous after-school clubs. Harriet loved every subject at school – her thirst for knowledge was insatiable. She was keen to learn new sports, enjoying football, hockey, netball, cricket and tennis, and always played with enthusiasm, integrity and a huge grin on her face.

Her approach to performing was much the same – she loved class singing lessons, and playing the guitar and piano (though practising less so). She participated in the Play in Two Days event, in which young actors go from receiving their lines to performing a play for their parents in just two days. Harriet played the part of the bartender in Around the World in 80 Days with great style.

Although she giggled her way through every day, Harriet had a serious side. She was empathetic and was ever the diplomat, especially at school, where she would mediate when any of her peers argued. She earned more “pluses” than any child in the history of the Dragon, many of which were for kindness.

A huge congregation representing a wide range of ages and cultures attended Harriet’s funeral at St Andrew’s Church in Oxford. We took some liberties with the hymn and sang “She who would valiant be …”, and at the party afterwards there was music and dancing.

Harriet is survived by her parents, and by her sister, Sophie, and brother, Sam.

Gareth Miller

The GuardianTramp

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