The photos appearing on this page have been provided courtesy of son Douglas Heffer
Marjorie Winifred Barnett was the tenth child of Arthur George Barnett and Kate Webster, born in Dunsden, Oxon, on April 15th, 1892 & christened at Shiplake, Oxon on June 19th, 1892.
At the time of the 1901 census, Marjorie (known as Barney) was listed with her parents living at Caversham, Oxon. She was 8 years old.
In 1911 Marjorie was a junior mistress at a boarding school for girls at 45/46 Pulteney St, Bath, Somerset.
By 1924 Marjorie’s talents at folk dancing lead to her being invited to teach classes at the Cambridge branch of the English Folk Dance Society.
Marjorie married Arthur Beak Heffer in 1929 in Cambridge, England. Arthur was born January 9th, 1899 his birth being registered at Cambridge, the son of Louisa Marion Beak & Ernest William Heffer, a book shop owner.
Arthur had fought in France in 1918 & was seriously wounded & invalided home. On recovery he went to Queen’s College, Oxford before joining the family book firm in Cambridge.
Marjorie taught country dancing professionally & Arthur was also a keen dancer, being a member of the English Folk Dance Society. An advert in the Bedfordshire Times & Independent of January 17th, 1930 shows he was also an instructor of folk & morris dancing.
Unfortunately Arthur died suddenly of pneumonia, at the age of 32, on November 1st, 1931 leaving Marjorie a widow with a young child to raise. At the time of his death they were living at 258 Hills Rd, Cambridge & Marjorie was granted probate on November 21st. Arthur’s effects amounted to £4055.14s.8d.
In 1932 Marjorie published a book with co-author William S Porter named ‘Maggot Pie: a Book of New Country Dances’. It was dedicated to Arthur.
In 1938 Marjorie was offered a job by the EFDSS to found a branch in Cape Town, South Africa. She and son Douglas emigrated to South Africa that year, where she remained until Douglas completed his schooling.
Here is an appreciation of Barney written by her son Douglas Heffer & extracted from Lorraine Wuth's site on Barnett genealogy.
My mother, Marjorie Winifred Heffer, nee Barnett, was a strong and determined
woman with a distinct zest for life. She never confided much to me of her
childhood, except that there was no money in the family, especially for her
the youngest, and that life was hard.
Her early passions for dance and physical exercise were to influence her life profoundly. She was accepted to train at the Bedford College of Physical Education and finished the course as Head Student. She was always immensely proud of this.
She soon became involved with Cecil Sharp and the English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and devoted herself to folk music and singing. She collaborated in an album of Playford Dances which became a best seller (and earns me royalties to this day).
Barney, as she was affectionately known to her friends, met Arthur Heffer through their shared interests and especially the Cambridge Morris Men, whom Arthur lead on numerous tours in East Anglia and the Cotswolds between 1925 and 1929, when they married in Cambridge. Their letters bear witness to a deep and passionate romance.
I was born in November 1930. A year later Arthur cotracted influenza and subsequently pneumonia. Antibiotics were then unavailable and he died without modern treatment, in common with many other sufferers. I don't think my mother ever recovered from the tragedy. She moved away from Cambridge and set up house in London with an old and very dear friend (also my godmother), Mary Maurice, who proved herself a wonderfully stabilising influence and a positive 'rock'.
Barney had to work to make ends meet. She used her considerable energy in teaching dance, leading groups and singing. I was sent to an infants' school in Hampstead. There was always music and laughter at home, but I remember my mother looking sad in unguarded moments. She missed her husband and longed for broader horizons. The opportunity came with the offer of a job, to found a branch of the EFDSS in Cape Town. We emigrated to South Africa in 1938, intending to stay a few years. The war intervened and then my education, so that we returned in 1949, after my matriculation. Those ten years were happy. We had paying guests, one of whom became a special friend. My mother could have married but felt that this would be a betrayal of Arthur's memory. We enjoyed some remarkable trips up-country. My mother was invited to sing in Johannesburg and her recital was broadcast. I remember that her favourite was the folk song Waly Waly, and the special pathos she conveyed.
Back in England, we returned to Hampstead for some ten years. My mother had many friends and took trouble with them. Again we had paying guests, including a noted musicologist, a journalist and music critic and an engineer. Some old friends had a cottage on the Dorset coast and we came to love this beautiful part of the country. We finally moved to Charminster, near the county town of Dorchester. My mother made the most of yet another situation and cultivated new friends energetically. Mary was always a great support. As I launched on a musical and teaching career I hope that I brought them both joy. I know that they were both delighted and relieved when I brought my future wife home. Our marriage could not have been happier or the family more united. My wife, Josephine, bears witness to much real friendship and generosity. Barney and Mary saw our eldest sons born. Barney would have been overjoyed to know that our daughter was to come. She would have loved a daughter herself.
Barney was always a force to be reckoned with. Without a husband, she needed to be strong, and she never failed me. She loved greatly and was loved in return. She left a legacy of great happiness.
Marjorie of Bridge Cottage, Charminster, Dorset died in September 29th, 1974. Probate of her estate of £10,950 was granted in November at Winchester.
The children of Marjoried Winifred Barnett & Arthur Beak Heffer were:
b.18.104.22.168.1 Douglas Barnett Heffer born November 1930 in Cambridge.