RIP Jean Aunty

Author Jean Watson, who was recently featured in the  documentary Aunty and the Star People, died in Wellington yesterday 28 December 2014.

Ms Watson wrote several novels. Stand in the Rain, which was published in 1965 and which was partly based on her marriage to writer Barry Crump, was her first and most well-known.

However, in the last 28 years or so, her focus was split between writing and philanthropic work in Tamil Nadu in Southern India, where she set up, funded and helped run a home for disadvantaged children. It was there that she acquired the affectionate name of Jean Aunty.  She wrote about the experience in Karunai Illam: The Story of an Orphanage.

My colleague Lisa was lucky enough to see Jean Watson at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival in August. Lisa’s blog post about the session is fascinating. While the focus of the talk was on Watson’s involvement in Karunai Illam, as depicted in Aunty and the Star People, I particularly enjoyed reading Jean’s comments on a number of New Zealand luminaries, including her description of Dennis Glover as a “very sort of sarcastic, open person”. He apparently called her a “middle-aged Ophelia”.

Jean Watson at WORD
Jean Watson in conversation with Gerard Smyth (director of Aunty and the Star People) at the WORD Festival, 29 August 2014,

 

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