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Dedicated to the art and life of Ilkley
10:36am Monday 30th May 2011 in Obituaries
She had a passion for the fine arts which she loved to share: once her three lively sons were at school, she enrolled as an adult education tutor at both Ilkley and Skipton Colleges, teaching drawing, painting, art and architectural history to many well-attended and dedicated classes. Eventually, at the instigation of her keener students, she established an independent cultural tours service – Gallerygoers – which, for almost 20 years, transported coachloads of enthusiasts around historic buildings and galleries throughout Britain and abroad.
She was born in 1935 in North Wales where four generations of her family had been corn-millers in the Ceiriog Valley, near Llangollan. Her parents, Lemuel and Gwladys Jones (both staunch Welsh-speaking non-conformists) had ‘emigrated’ to Derbyshire in the 1930s in search of employment. Megan’s father, who worked in the mining industry, died of respiratory illness when Megan was only 12. Her mother returned to teaching, eventually becoming head of Morton County Primary School, near Chesterfield.
Megan was educated at the nearby Tipton Hall Grammar School and the Fine Art Department of King’s College (now Newcastle University) under the tutelage of such distinguished artists as Lawrence Gowing, Victor Pasmore and Richard Hamilton. She was awarded a Hatton Scholarship and, in 1959, an honours degree. After graduation she married a fellow student on the same course – Michael Dawson.
They embarked on a somewhat peripatetic existence, first in Weymouth, Dorset (where Michael was a youth leader) then in Rugby, Warwickshire (where he headed an adult education centre). It was there that Timothy, their eldest son was born, soon to be followed by twins Adam and Benjamin. The young family then gravitated to London where Michael helped start, then ran, the Greater London Arts Association. In due course he was asked to set up a similar arts-promoting organisation in Yorkshire, signaling their arrival in Ilkley.
Quite apart from the art appreciation classes she tutored, Megan became actively involved in several other local groups. She was a keen supporter of the Ilkley Civic Society and a committee member of the Ilkley Film Society. With her husband she helped start (then organised numerous events during) the biennial Ilkley Literature Festival which, between 1973 and 1989, became one of the leading festivals of its kind in Britain. Subsequently, as another joint venture, they established Ampersand Books to deal in old children’s illustrated books, selling their wares at bookfairs throughout the Yorkshire and the north.
They continued this business in Bath then moved to a converted water-mill near the Welsh border at Ludlow, which – for Megan – seemed almost like a return to her ancestral roots. She became a keen gardener and in 2004 helped produce a lavish pictorial guide to other hidden gardens in the town: ‘Ludlow’s Secret Gardens’. Recently they had downsized to Stamford so as to be nearer their families but sadly Megan’s rapid decline – which she endured with humour and fortitude – followed shortly after the move. She is sorely missed by her husband, her two surviving sons and five young grandchildren who together scattered her ashes at the place she always considered her spiritual home in North Wales.