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‘Madam’ - Hilary Clare

[This is a revised version of an article that first appeared in Abbey Chronicle No. 6, in September 1990. Copyright remains with the Author and with the Editor of the Abbey Chronicle, who assert their rights under the Copyright, Designs and Patent Act, 1988]
EJO devotees may be interested to learn what little I have managed to find out about ‘Madam’; perhaps someone will be inspired to take the research further.
Helen Dorothy Kennedy, born in 1889, was the elder sister of Douglas Kennedy, who succeeded Cecil Sharp as Director of the English Folk Dance Society and who himself appears in The Abbey Girls Go Back to School as ‘Joshua’. Helen was involved in the EF-DS from the beginning; even before its foundation, in December 1911, she was teaching dancing at a Summer School at Stratford-upon-Avon, and was to become one of the regular demonstration team. In 1914 Douglas Kennedy married Helen Karpeles (‘Mrs Joshua’). Hon. Sec. of the EF-DS whose sister Maud was Cecil Sharp’s secretary (and later biographer) and was nick-named ‘the little foot-page’. This is why Cicely described Maud to Madam as “the little dark one, that’s almost related to you, but not quite!” (p. 174).
Helen taught at Whitelands College, Chelsea, and during the latter part of the war joined the Pixie teaching folk dancing to the troops. From 1918 she served on the Committee at the EF-DS. In December 1920 she married Stanley North, an artist and picture-restorer, who worked on the royal and other collections. They seem thereafter to have been known as ‘Kennedy-North’ - Madam is certainly always referred to as Mrs Kennedy-North. From EJO we know of the birth of her son Roger in April 1922. At that time the Kennedy-Norths were living in Flat 5, Bassett Road, W10. In 1924 they moved to Flat 3 at the same address (presumably a bigger flat, to judge from EJO’s description of the original one in The New Abbey Girls), and in 1931 they moved round the corner to 31 Ladbroke Grove. At some point before 1944 Madam had gone to South Africa where she is recorded as examining folk-dancing, and was still there in 1945, In 1970, a widow, she was back in this country and settled at Tunbridge Wells. We have a letter from her dated February 1975, which she wrote from Mount Ephraim House, T-W, in answer to someone who is now an EJO Society member: ‘You have stirred up some memories for me ... Yes “Pixie” was D. C. Daking & I am “Madam”.’ The Daily Telegraph carried a notice of her death which gave the date as, ‘13 Oct. 1975, aged 86. Widow of Stanley North, mother of Roger. In Pembury Hospital, [Tunbridge Wells].’
Did she mind being portrayed in the books? I wonder. She features largely in only two of them: Abbey Girls Go Back to School and New Abbey Girls, makes a guest appearance, so to speak, in Abbey Girls Again, and ‘walks on’ in Abbey Girls in Town. Thereafter she is not mentioned - she doesn’t seem to have come to Joy’s wedding - which to my mind suggests that she had protested pretty strongly. Of course EJO did leave London in 1922, and I suspect rather lost touch with her dancing friends, but the abrupt loss of ‘Madam’, even from the casual reference, does rather indicate a complete breach of friendship.