Partner Ray Marshall, Eric (Lea) Leazell

Queer Places:
Bridgefoot Cottage, Stedham, Midhurst GU29 0PT, UK

Paul Berry (December 25, 1919 - May 12, 1999) was a remote cousin on his mother's side of the novelist Winifred Holtby. She was a great friend of another writer, Vera Brittain, author of the 1930s autobiographical classic of the lost generation of the first world war, Testament Of Youth. Paul became Holtby's literary executor after Brittain's death. He was then working as a lecturer in secretarial skills at Kingsway-Princeton College in London. He did his job conscientiously enough but was waiting for retirement to begin his real life's work, which was to write books, in particular a book about Brittain.

Paul had been her close friend from their first meeting in July 1942, at a Food Relief Rally in Trafalgar Square, up until her death in 1970. She had hoped he would complete the final volume of her autobiography, to be called Testament of Faith.

When they met, he was working as a bomb disposal soldier in London, a compromise between his pacifism and his wish to be part of the war effort - his experiences as a young man before and during the war were to provide Brittain with much of the substance of her last novel, Born 1925.

There was a 25-year difference in age between them, yet they shared political ideals. Her encouragement of his writing and his protectiveness towards her in her vulnerable later years, made their relationship important to both, and one which Paul never relinquished or disavowed.

Paul Frederick Berry came from a Midlands farming family, the eighth of 10 children. He was born at Weston-by-Welland, Leicestershire. After school, he served in the Royal Engineers and Royal Ordnance Corps. Then the war changed the direction of his life. He never did finish Testament Of Faith. Instead, the material from it became part of Vera Brittain: A Life (1995), the biography he co-wrote with Mark Bostridge. That he took so long to write it - and then had to be helped to do so - represented perhaps the main disappointment of his life. He had a writer's ambitions and sensibility, but found writing difficult - and wrote less, and with less originality, than he had hoped.

Yet his literary achievement was significant, not least as custodian of Brittain's reputation, with the re-publication by Virago Press of Testament Of Youth in 1978 and the BBC-televised adaptation a year later. This was followed by Testament Of A Generation: The Journalism Of Vera Brittain And Winifred Holtby, which he co-edited with Alan Bishop.

Perhaps because of his homosexuality - and certainly because of his compassionate nature - Paul had a particular sympathy with people at odds with society. This led him into a variety of occupations and activities - hospital work, prison visiting and pacifist campaigns. Fiercely agnostic, he substituted a passionate social concern for religious belief. He was a man who had a special rapport with women, one whose loving memories of a strong, long-suffering mother had made into a feminist.

On leaving the Army he worked for a time at Donald Soper's Kingsway Hall mission, helping to run the rest and feeding centre there: throughout his life Berry would always go to great lengths to help anyone in trouble or distress. He wanted to join the probation service, but when this proved impossible he settled on a career as a teacher of secretarial skills, eventually becoming a Senior Lecturer at Kingsway-Princeton College for Further Education until his retirement in 1981.

During the difficult years when he divided his time between a taxing job in London and the home which he and his partner, the distinguished potter Ray Marshall, had established at Stedham, near Midhurst (where Marshall ran a pottery from 1952), he made some forays into publishing his work. Vera Brittain introduced him to Allen & Unwin, who published Daughters of Cain (1956), the study of the nine women executed in Britain since 1923, which he had co-authored with Renee Huggett; and in 1970, through Brittain's introduction to Muriel Box of Femina Books, he published By Royal Appointment, a biography of Mary Ann Clarke (1776-1852), the mistress of the Grand Old Duke of York.

Paul was amusing, a sympathetic listener, an easy raconteur, and the owner - with the companion of his last 13 years, the artist Eric (Lea) Leazell, whom he had met after the death of Marshall in 1986 - of a magical west Sussex garden on a river bank. Over all this he cast an air of benignity and serenity, so that one felt contented and relaxed in his presence.

His last publication was a selection of Holtby's short stories. Its title, Remember, Remember, is appropriate to Holtby, who died young.

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