Tribute to 'incredible' former teacher, campaigner and volunteer
- Credit: Supplied by the family
She was one of Norfolk's leading lights for decades, known for her wit, warmth and compassion.
And now tributes have been paid to Audrey Brayne, of Sheringham, who died on April 21, just days before her 94th birthday.
Nick Conrad, former BBC radio presenter and one of Mrs Brayne's 15 grandchildren, said: "Audrey will be remembered as a cheery, helpful, busily active and really rather unorthodox member of the local Sheringham community.
"Her daily dip in the sea, her love of nature, her birdwatching and what might be termed a chaotic cycling style through town established her as a local character."
Mrs Brayne and her twin sister, Phyllis, were born in Peshawar and spent their early years in India "in the grand palaces of the Raj". Their father, Sir Herbert Thompson, was a First World War fighter pilot who went onto a career with the Indian Civil Service.
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The sisters went to boarding school in England and were shipped back to what they hoped would be safety in India when the Second World War broke out. But the threat of Japanese submarines forced their ship to divert to Australia.
When she was back in India on her return journey to Britain in 1945 Audrey met her future husband, Thomas Brayne. She went on to study at Oxford University.
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Mr Conrad said: "She read modern languages at St Hilda’s, intending to support the work of reconciliation across nations, spending time immediately after war’s end as nanny to a family in Belgium. This hugely influenced her views, and future work in conflict resolution and unity."
In 1950, the couple moved to a small farm near Holt with their first child, Mark, and they had three more children, Hugh, Peter and Carol.
But the marriage did not survive, and in 1962 Mrs Brayne moved to Sheringham. She was a teacher at Runton Hill School in West Runton and then at Norwich High School for Girls where she taught German, French and careers.
Mrs Brayne was best friends with Mary Dyson, the mother of Sir James Dyson, who was a student at Gresham's of Holt.
Mr Conrad said Mrs Brayne "encouraged young James’s early designs by purchasing his first prototype ‘ballbarrow’, a technology later repurposed for the famous Dyson bagless vacuum cleaner, asking him also to make two wooden beds for her house".
Mrs Brayne pioneered Norwich's twinning links with Heilbronn, and was a founder of Sheringham's twinning link with Otterndorf in Germany.
Mr Conrad said she "rapidly became a bright thread in the fabric of Sheringham", volunteering with groups including the Little Theatre, the Girl Guides, the RNLI, Churches Together, Sheringham Preservation Society and Museum, Meals-on-Wheels, Break and the University of the Third Age U3A.
She established The Smugglers, a youth theatre group, writing and directing an annual play involving hundreds of local children over many years.
Mr Conrad said: "She helped and counselled many, as friends and equals long before society started to erode the stigma, on issues from sexuality to mental health. Throughout her life she was passionate in the support of younger people."
Mrs Brayne was active in Amnesty International, writing letters on behalf of political prisoners, raising money and highlighting the plight of refugees.
Mr Conrad said: "She participated in several exchanges with Muzillac in France and was an early pioneer of personal links with Russia, with pen friends in the Soviet Union and visiting in person both before and after the end of Communism in the early 1990s."
She also helped establish Sheringham’s Asylum Seekers’ Annual Picnic, taking refugee families for a paid-for day by the sea.
Mrs Brayne, who lived with dementia in her later years, spent her final days surrounded by members of her extended family, which came to include her two live-in carers, Getrude and Clara, who were originally from Zimbabwe.
Mr Conrad said: "Audrey’s indomitable spirit lives on in everyone she supported and loved. Audrey was progressive. She was inclusive. She was incredible."
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