Iris Mary Pinkstone – The “Pink Imp”

Iris Pinkstone at the unveiling of the information panel at Battlewell, Evesham
Iris Pinkstone at the unveiling of the information panel at Battlewell, Evesham

The photograph, above, was scanned from The Evesham Journal

Iris Mary Pinkstone (she liked to be called the “Pink Imp”) was born in Kent in April 1932; her birth was registered in Dartford in the June Quarter of that year. Her mother died of TB when she was very young. She remembered her mother’s clothes and possessions being burnt in the garden to kill any germs.

Iris originally trained as a book illustrator and graphic designer before gaining qualifications in Theology which led to her teaching religious education and art in Birmingham and Coventry. Taking early retirement, she returned full time to her art, gaining an MA in Art Education from Birmingham Polytechnic. She set up a studio – almost a little artistic community – in Evesham where she taught art to adults.

Iris’s “second career” began with a television broadcast by Alex Clifton Taylor who described the importance of the 1265 Evesham Battlefield and its neglected condition, seizing Iris’s interest. She was a founder-member of the Simon de Montfort Society which she chaired for many years, using the society to raise the profile of Simon de Montfort, earl of Leicester, the important developments that arose from the Second Baronial Revolt, including a prototype House of Commons, and the Battle of Evesham at which he met his end.

We knew Iris for her skill with paintbrush and pencil and her drawings adorned the covers of several publications. Her lively and energetic images brought the period to life. We also knew her as a determined organiser, peace-maker (and occasionally breaker) and someone to whom it was difficult to say “no”.

In 2015 the British Association of Local History recognised Iris with their Achievement Award. Iris received the accolade from the BALH at the Local History Day event in Birmingham. A spokesman for the British Association for Local History added: “We are pleased to recognise, as a referee says, Iris’s ‘dogged work and service to the cause of truly understanding the 13th century’. He went on to say: “Iris is known for her skill as an illustrator; her images bring to life this relatively distant time and are used in many places and publications. These include the society’s newsletter, ‘The Lion’, which was been Iris’s own product for over 20 years and plays a vital role in keeping members and the wider world informed.”

Iris’s home, which we all knew as just “The Cottage”, was a charming thatched, timber-framed black and white cottage that formed the perfect backdrop for Iris. We used to look forward to our committee meetings there among the chaos of books, sketches, papers and paintings that was Iris’s natural environment. Visitors were always sure of a warm welcome, a cup of tea and, usually, a slice of cake.

We cannot think about Iris without remembering her two long-term co-residents: her friend Alwyn and her “little black devil”, Dandy the schipperke, both of whom predeceased her.

Iris was an expert on Beatrix Potter. A few days before she died, she announced her intention of stepping down as chairman of the Society. She wanted to devote her remaining years to her art and to compiling a book about Beatrix Potter.

Iris suffered recurring ill-health, particularly affecting her mobility. In spite of this, she seemed to be eternal and indestructible. Her death, in Worcester Royal Hospital on the morning of May 22nd 2020, has left a vacuum that we will not easily fill.

DAVID SNOWDEN

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