Tuesday, May 21, 2024
11.2 C


My Account

- Advertisement -

Remarkable success came later in life

Jackie Bews, formerly Hair, died in Edinburgh on June 1 this year.

Dr Jacqueline Bews was born on November 5, 1944 and attended Masterton Central School with siblings Geoff and Gillian before attending Wairarapa College. After Form 6, she trained as a primary teacher at Wellington Teachers’ Training College.

Close friend Claire Hills [nee Ayson] remembers those early days: “We both lived in Cornwall Street and were close friends. She came to my primary school birthday parties, and I was invited to hers, and we went to each other’s houses to play after school.”

When Claire remained at school until Form 7, then gained a secondary teachers’ studentship at Victoria University, the two friends saw little of each other until Claire, then married, returned to Masterton in 1967. The next year she had a short-term teaching contract at Wairarapa College where Jackie was teaching Physical Education. By this time, she was engaged to Allen Hair, who Claire remembers “as a very stimulating history teacher when I was in Forms 6 and 7”.

Subsequently, when she worked for Sport Wellington, Jackie created Sportplay, a programme using playful movement to assist children’s learning.

Later, in Masterton, when their children were older, the friends saw more of each other, both now pursuing ambitious academic goals.

In 2009, Jackie Hair was contacted by Colwyn Trevarthen, Emeritus Professor of Child Psychology at Edinburgh University, when he toured New Zealand with his book Communicative Musicality. Later, when Jackie was visiting family in Europe, they met and he later invited her to study with him, researching the impact of music on brain development.

She then began a PhD exploring rhythm in swimming, especially the butterfly stroke, working with Olympic-level swimmers in Edinburgh and Auckland. This was followed by study on the effects of rhythm and music on neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s and autism.

As Claire Hills, who completed her doctorate in 2013, says: “In my mind, the journey Jackie made in the last fifteen years of her life was amazing. To make an academic journey from a primary teaching diploma to a doctorate at Edinburgh University and then to a research position at Oxford is a tribute not only to her academic mentors like Professor Colwyn Trevarthen but also to her personal tenacity.”

It was very interesting, remembers Claire Hills, to see how her interest in early musical education and rhythm awareness led to the exploration of the relationship between biorhythms and improved swimming performance and then exploring the relationship between rhythmic concepts and brain functioning, and the developmental brain science of expressive movement.

Other close friends, Janet Avery and Ross Ireland, also marvel at her academic achievements. “Her PhD dissertation was titled ‘A Rhythm Concept of Musicology, Kinaethesia and Mathematical Sciences’ and during her oral examination the examiners were extremely impressed with her understanding of certain mathematical procedures involved.”

Shortly afterwards Jackie was offered and accepted a cancer research scholarship at Oxford University under the umbrella of the Francis Crick Institute [Neuroscientist Crick was a co-discoverer of the structure of DNA].

After she was diagnosed with inoperable oesophageal cancer, Janet and Ross were in regular contact towards the end of Jackie Bews’ life, seeing her in Edinburgh last October and keeping in daily touch until three days before her death.

This year, Isabel and Jack Chan, former pupils of Jackie’s, travelled to Edinburgh from Melbourne to see her. When they left, they arranged with a local café to provide her with scrambled eggs every day – by then the only real food she was able to eat.

In March this year, at a large gathering of over 500 in Edinburgh for International Women’s Day, chaired by Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s recently retired first minister, a special tribute was paid to Jackie Bews and her work.

Jackie Bews continued her research for as long as she could, supported by her much-loved children Maria, a surgeon in Edinburgh, and James and their families. Her courage, resilience, and determination to not allow her own challenges to crush her spirit were evident to the end.

Janet and Ross report that the Crick Institute plans to establish a scholarship in her name; Edinburgh University is also establishing a scholarship in her name for overseas students to study in her original discipline of rhythm neurology.

Claire Hills likes to remember the good times – and particularly Jackie’s love of hats. “On one occasion, during a visit back to Masterton, she was speaking to Probus at the Cosmopolitan Club and took particular pleasure in smuggling her doctoral hat in with her regalia and then dressing up in it in defiance of Cosmopolitan Club rules that women should not wear hats on its premises.”

Related Articles

- Advertisement -
light rain
11.2 ° C
11.6 °
11.2 °
97 %
100 %
12 °
11 °
11 °
11 °
12 °