1. Home
  2. News
  3. Latest News
  4. Fay Weldon Obituary


Fay Weldon Obituary

We were sad to learn of the passing of the brilliant, outspoken writer, Fay Weldon – a former pupil at South Hampstead.

Our archivist Joanna Coates writes about the eventful life of the formidable author, who was awarded a scholarship to South Hampstead in the late 1940s.

Fay Birkinshaw was born in England in 1931; when her family emigrated to New Zealand, Fay took refuge in fairy tales and children’s literature, planting a seed for her literary career to follow. At the age of 15, Fay returned to England with her mother, where she joined South Hampstead to complete her Sixth Form years from 1947 and 1949. She was an outstanding student and, in 1948, received a prize for the high standard of her schoolwork in Latin, English and French. After achieving her Higher School Certificate from South Hampstead in 1949, Fay accepted a place at St Andrews University to study Economics and Psychology.

After leaving St Andrews, she worked as a waitress, in a hospital ward, and as a clerk in the Foreign Office. After a two year marriage, Fay became a single mother, and become a revered copywriter – her most famous ad campaign was ‘Go to Work on an Egg’ for the egg marketing board. Her second marriage to Ron Weldon lasted thirty years and produced three sons. It was at this time that she began to write novels, plays and scripts for television, including pilot episodes for Upstairs, Downstairs; her most famous book, The Life and Loves of a She-Devil, was made into a film. Throughout her career, Weldon wrote 26 books and her collection of short stories, Wicked Women, won the PEN award in 1996.

Fay’s life was as dramatic as her novels and plays. Her stories of revenge by oppressed women, and her interest in subjects ranging from genetic modification, house husbands, cloning and Polish nannies, certainly made her life interesting. In 2007, Fay invited some aspiring South Hampstead writers to her home in Dorset for an impromptu creative writing workshop. The students were greeted with some characteristic, straightforward honesty about working as a writer, for which they were grateful –  a breath of fresh air.

Writer Jenny Colgan recently paid tribute to her in the Guardian: “Fay was noisy in an era when women were expected to be quiet. She used her voice and took up space; she said what she felt, she brought energy and fun. She was one of the early glass ceiling crackers…” 

Her books have divided the critics, but for her fans – and as a trailblazer – she will be much missed.


You may also be interested in...