Obituary

12th November 2010 at 00:00

Enid Whitham, who died last month aged 82 after a mercifully short battle with cancer, made a major contribution to early education in Edinburgh and beyond.

Enid was born in London, and when the war started was evacuated with her mother to Hemingford Grey in Huntingdon.

After school, she did her teacher training at Homerton College, Cambridge. She married David Whitham in 1953, and two years later they moved to Edinburgh. She gained her teacher training qualification at the Moray House School of Education.

She became one of the founding members of a new organisation, the Nursery School Association. It later became the British Association for Early Childhood Education (BAECE) - now known simply as Early Education. She rose to become its national chair. Only in May, she went to the organisation's national conference in Aberdeen.

As chair of BAECE, she was co-opted on to the National Council of Women, a government and advisory body which met at the Treasury in Westminster. A fully paid-up member of the Labour Party, she found it hard to swallow her tea when invited to 10 Downing Street by Margaret Thatcher.

She was particularly proud of one initiative - a scheme for educational home visitors - when she was nursery education adviser for Lothian Region. Nursery teachers visited children in their homes before they joined nursery - the aim was to help the parents get to know the families better, and make their children's entry into school easier.

Enid was always on the move. She loved the countryside and walking and climbing in the Highlands or the Lakes. She loved her dancing class and art club at Balerno. She had a passion for motorbikes, and every year attended the event at Hesket New Market with David. Latterly she was persuaded by Aline-Wendy Dunlop to become a trustee of the Hew Lorimer Trust and she revelled in attending meetings and events at Kellie Castle to help promote the work of the renowned sculptor. She supported the new charity Youth Vision, approving wholeheartedly of its progress in helping deprived young people to take part in outdoor activities.

She always had hens and cats and, of course, she was devoted to children. She and I used to run a playrooom at the Lyceum Theatre in Edinburgh during the Saturday matinees. Enid loved showing them how to make puppets and by the time the parents came, the children had not only made puppets but had a puppet show rehearsed and ready.

Enid's influence extended beyond her professional life: she documented and archived the history of Edinburgh's nursery schools; she campaigned for the city's nurseries in the face of closure; and her expertise was vital in making the recent Child's Curriculum Conference in Edinburgh such a success.

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