The Association for Latin Teaching

respice prospice

Helen Anscomb

5 May, 1946 - 30 March ,  2018

Helen and her three brothers, James, John and Bernard, grew up  in Barnes, South London

in a strongly Roman Catholic family. She was educated at Ursuline Convent before reading

Classics at Bangor University where she excelled at rowing and tennis.

After a PGCE at Leeds she taught English for some years in Madrid , becoming a fluent Spanish  speaker. On return

to  this country she  had a classics post  at St. Mary's School, Ascot , one of her pupils being the King of Spain's


For much  of her career Helen taught Latin  at  Park House , a comprehensive school in Newbury. Here she inspired large numbers of young people, some  continuing with the subject  to A level and university level and latterly she started a Greek  GCSE group  too. She fought tirelessly to  maintain  her corner , despite opposition , not least  because she taught outside the timetable and so often   experienced  missed lessons . There is no doubt that  she did a great deal  to promote classics in the state sector .

She  suffered various forms of  ill-health, but never complained . Her iron willpower kept her going  at  school  and elsewhere , even  when she was not feeling well. In 1992 she had a liver transplant that  caused other complications , such as a suppressed immune system and  systemic sclerosis. She also  had a kidney  removed and  developed Reynaud's disease. While in hospital  last year  for three consecutive months she celebrated 25  years as a liver transplantee. With typical  generosity, she asked her friend , a baker , to  produce a giant cake which she shared with all the nurses. She  outlived her much  younger liver consultant by many years , but not before she had convinced him that  his own children  should study Latin at  least to GCSE  !

Helen first  came to  the ARLT SS in 1996, arriving on a motorbike , her mode of transport for much  of her adult life. She entered into  the week  with gusto , joining the ad hoc choir and , on subsequent occasions , participating in drama at the Entertainment. I  particularly recall  her spirited performance in 1999 of some alternative views of Pliny. She continued to  attend the SS until 2013 when she was admitted to hospital  during the week. Since then she maintained a keen  interest in her friends in the ARLT..

Helen was a serious eco-warrior , campaigning     on behalf  of many  causes   She appeared on television when there were only three channels - and no  internet- and featured in national  newspapers.  One particular  concern was the Newbury bypass. In protest  against  its construction, Helen spent an  entire night up a tree !  Her action concerning a road through Highclere, near Newbury, successfully led to an alteration of the route.

Helen's life was a triumph of courage and faith in adversity. She died suddenly and peacefully at  home on Good Friday , a fact that  would have pleased her . We express our condolences to  her brothers, nieces, nephews and other family members and to all whose lives she touched. The classical  world has been greatly enriched by her contribution.

Lynda Goss