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Terry Barringer TABarringe@aol.com January 15, 2013 Thanks Derek for posting this. I was privileged to give the eulogy at Louise Pirouet's funeral on 10 January and here's my text. I am preparing a longer obituary of Louise and would be pleased to hear off list from any list members who would like to share memories and appreciations. Terry Barringer Cambridge Louise was a master of the short biography. She wrote 13 articles for the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, ranging from pioneer missionaries to Idi Amin and many more in the Historical Dictionary of Uganda (a new edition incorporating much of Louise’s work in preparation). The editor of the Historical Dictionaries of Africa series described her quite simply as ‘ one of the best authors I have worked with over these 40 years’. I can hear her voice in my ear now, as I attempt to give an overview of a remarkable life, murmuring ‘have you cross-checked all your sources?’ and ‘I think you need to tighten up your chronology’. So hoping that she and all of you will forgive my deficiencies, to begin at the beginning… Louise was an African by birth, as well as by love, born in Cape Town on October 4 1928 to missionary parents. The family, by this time joined by Edmund, returned to England in 1934. Louise was educated first in Aylsebury and then at the Clarendon School. She read English at Westfield College, University of London and subsequently taught at Sir William Perkin Girls School in Chertsey, before returning to the continent of her birth, with the Church Missionary Society to teach at a girls’ school in Kenya. CMS did not know quite what to do with this feisty young woman and she soon found her way to the Department of Religious Studies at Makerere. Here she completed her PhD, later published as Black Evangelists: the spread of Christianity in Africa. This was groundbreaking research. Louise set off across Uganda in her VW beetle, interviewing the converts and catechists who planted Anglican Christianity across the country. If Louise had not carried out her research then, details of that story could well have been lost and our understanding of Ugandan Christianity impoverished. Black Evangelists remains an essential starting point for those studying the story of Christianity in Uganda and elsewhere in Africa. It is full of detail about Africans, not white missionaries, whose energy and commitment spread the faith in Uganda. Louise was well ahead of her time--during a period when many historians were pursuing mission history in an uncritical way, she insisted that Christianity in Africa should be an African story. She was ahead of her time too in teaching, equipping and enabling her students and colleagues – collecting archives, compiling a slide collection and biographical dictionary, arranging publication and organising conferences. She was a second mother to Ugandan women students as Warden of Mary Stuart Hall and became involved in helping Sudanese refugees escaping civil war, the beginning of a life’s work as passionate but eminently practical advocate for refugees. Louise returned to England in the 1970s, in time to organise relief for Ugandan Asians expelled by Idi Amin, lectured for a short time at Bishop Otter College in Chichester before a second African stint at the University of Nairobi. Her last teaching post was at Homerton. She made a home for herself in Geldart Street and found a spiritual home here at Great St. Mary’s. No. 8 was the hub and heart of Geldart Street. She had an ability to get to know anyone who moved into the street and even after she became housebound she seemed to act as a catalyst. She knew everyone in the street long before they knew each other and when there were things to be done as a street, such as getting the trees cut back, it was at her flat that they met. She was a good neighbour in all the best old fashioned senses and the whole street missed her when she left it. Louise threw herself into the support of refugees and asylum seekers, active with organisations including Amnesty International, the Asylum Rights Campaign and Asylum Aid. She was a founder and co-ordinator of Charter 87. When the Home Office set up an Immigration Reception Centre in the Army Barracks at Oakington in 2000 Louise became a founder member of CamOak, a watch-dog organisation to safeguard the rights of asylum seekers. She was also a key member of the Cambridge Refugee Support Group. Louise campaigned tirelessly for justice and human rights in the treatment of asylum seekers and refugees over the next ten years that the Centre was open. She spoke out fearlessly against the unfairness and inefficiency in the dealings of the Home Office and the UK Border Agency, and from a position of strength in her deep knowledge of legal matters involved with Immigration Law. She was a ceaseless and determined letter writer and had a wide network of contacts within the asylum and refugee networks and she used these to good effect when she needed to. No politician or civil servant was allowed to get away with a bland proforma reply or with vague promises when Louise was on the case! She also found time to write her fourth and last book, Whatever happened to asylum in Britain. Still there was always time for other activities and interests. Delight in her family, watching her nephews and then great nephews grow up. Support for the African Studies Centre and the Henry Martyn Centre. Students and scholars passing through Cambridge, especially those from East Africa, would find Louise always ready to share her books, her notes, her time and her hospitality. Always intellectually curious, Louise would mark up the reviews of the latest books in the Sunday supplements and TLS and was one of Heffers ’ best customers. She took up the history of art, following the degree course (writing the essays but not taking the exams) at Anglia Ruskin, visiting the Fitzwilliam and other galleries frequently (and when she could no longer do so, sending me to collect exhibition catalogues). She became an expert on African figures in European art and on the style of the Virgin’s throne in medieval paintings. As her illness took hold and gradually took away more and more of her physical abilities, we worried about how such an activist would cope with enforced immobility and an ever more restricted lifestyle. But Louise was in touch with her inner contemplative. Her well-stocked mind, her interest in people and events and her life of prayer sustained her to the end. She won the respect and admiration of those who cared for her so well at The Hollies. We are grateful for a gentle passing, with peace and dignity at the end. Today, we celebrate Louise – a great scholar, an advocate for the vulnerable and oppressed, a wonderful sister and aunt, neighbour and friend, ‘a saint of the doughty variety’. We celebrate her rare combination of hard head, brilliant mind, loving heart and indomitable spirit. The world is poorer for her passing but Heaven is richer. -------------- In a message dated 15/01/2013 05:52:18 GMT Standard Time, llueker@NU.EDU writes: Derek Peterson firstname.lastname@example.org Dear colleagues: List members will be saddened to hear of the passing of Dr. Louise Pirouet, long associated with the African Studies Centre at the University of Cambridge. Louise began her academic career in Religious Studies at Makerere College in Uganda, where she conducted the research that led to the publication of her important _Black Evangelists: The Spread of Christianity in Uganda, 1891-1914_. Later in life she taught for Homerton College, Cambridge, and became a leading advocate for asylum seekers in Britain. I found her to be a lively interlocutor, full of generosity and spirit. I attach here the obituary recently published on the Homerton College website. *** Dr Margaret Mary Louise Pirouet Published: Wed, 09/01/2013 - 11:47 Dr Margaret Mary Louise Pirouet, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Homerton College 1978-1989, died peacefully on 21 December 2012. There will be a Memorial Service at Great St Mary’s Church at 12.00 noon on 10 January. Louise came to Homerton from the University of East Africa, at Makerere in Uganda where she had been teaching religious studies and undertaking radical and innovative research. She subsequently taught for many years in the Religious Studies Department at Homerton alongside Jean Holm and Grahame Miles. In Uganda, she built on her doctoral research which had involved the extensive interviewing of African Christians about their perceptions of the faith that they had received from European missions. She was supportive thereby of the earliest African scholars’ own expressions of their adopted and developing theology. Louise left Uganda in the wake of Idi Amin's ejections of foreign personnel and persecution of many of his own people. She had developed a deep attachment to Uganda and its people and retained many contacts both in that country and with exiles in the UK. There was a constant stream of visitors to her home and many also passed through Homerton. Through their experiences and those of many others seeking political asylum in Britain she developed a deep concern not only for their plight, but also for what she regarded as the often inhumane treatment they received from the authorities in the UK. In later years much of her energy was focussed on the 'obscene' conditions in the refugee and asylum seeker local holding centre in Oakington, Cambridgeshire, which was eventually closed in 2010. Louise was a tough and feisty campaigner with a sustained commitment to social justice on all fronts. Within Homerton she contributed to the work on gender equality and to the development of multi-cultural perspectives in teaching. She did not have a lot of time for ideological posing or discussions: for her it was patently obvious that some residual attitudes and practices were nonsense and that we had better do something to change things ... now! She was a regular attender at Great St Mary's where she showed a similar impatience with the Church's slowness to recognise what to her was patently obvious -- for example the place of women in the ministry of the church. She was an extremely intelligent woman, knowledgeable in history, religious studies and fine art, but wholly unpretentious, living very modestly and focussing her energy not on her own needs or ambitions but on the service of others whom she saw to be more sorely in need of support. She published books on African history and one important socio-political plea for justice for asylum seekers in Britain.=