Kathleen Ferrier - her search for love            <Back

Towards the end of his obituary, Duncan raises the question of Kathleen’s private life. His story of what she said to him near Amsterdam in June or July 1951 mentions her unhappy marriage, not an easy issue to discuss in 1953. 

Ferrier had married Albert Wilson in November 1935 – she was 23. He became a bank manager in Silloth, Cumbria, the following year. In 1947 they divorced, on the grounds that the marriage was unconsummated. She had had doubts from before the wedding, and the marriage began to break up in 1940, when she moved to live with her father and sister in Carlisle. It was effectively over when Bert was conscripted in 1941. 

Bert didn’t like becoming known as "Mr Kathleen Wilson" as she pursued her career against his objections. 

She once asked him: "Why don’t you make more fuss of me?" He replied: "You don’t run after a bus once you’ve caught it". (Leonard, 27)

On leave, he attended a concert in Blackburn in 1942, but her diary entry for October that year is telling: 'Bert home. [….] Stayed at Flo’s. Slept at No. 9'. (LDKF, 291)

The last diary mention of Bert is lunch at a Carlisle hotel on 25 January 1945. (LDKF, 291)

Ferrier's remarks to Duncan about her unhappiness are oblique, mediated through references to Gluck’s Orfeo and Eurydice, which she had performed the night before, presumably in Amsterdam, since they meet over breakfast the next morning, at a 'house party outside Amsterdam', probably in June 1949. She performed Orfeo, who follows his dead wife Eurydice to the Underworld, but loses her again when he turns to look at her. 

 

Kathleen says to Duncan:

Yes […], the part suits me. Searching through hell for love is something I do all the time.

Her unhappiness is also mediated through Lucretia. When – surely not at breakfast? – orchids are brought to her, Kathleen remarks:

These orchids have been sent to my voice […], but I wish somebody would pick just one daisy for me. 

Lucretia, we recall, made her wreath from orchids. 

Kathleen had an extended relationship with an antiques dealer from Liverpool called Rick Davies. He first appears in the diaries on 8 February 1943, when he “rang up from L’pool”, (LDKF, 298) and disappears after 17 February 1952: 'Rick coming'. (LDKF, 415)

In 1949 she seriously considered becoming engaged to him, but in 1950 decided that "I guess I’m meant to be a lone she-wolf. I don’t mind him for a buddy for a few days, then I’ve had enough and want to retire behind and iron curtain". (Leonard, 164) In the letters, he is last mentioned after a dinner at the Adelphi Hotel in Liverpool on 23 January 1952. (LDKF, 415)

When she was ill, but could still return home, she writes in 1951 that 'it was lovely to get home again to mi [sic] little virgin couch!” In 1953, closer to death, she writes: “It’s heaven to be in my own bed again, virgin couch though it be!!' (LDKF, 206)

Author: Dr Alan Munton

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