Tuesday, 30 June 2015


And Mária Hári
Once upon a time, in Fairyland

It has been long time no see for mention of Princess Di and Conductive Education

Yesterday conductor Kirsten Bairstow-Robb posted on her Facebook page a photographic reminder of Diana's visit to the then International Pető Institute, specifically a snap of her talking to Kirsten and Susie Mallett who were then training there:

Susie commented on Kirsten's page:
I remember that day very well. I was so impressed by how much HRH knew about us. She had been briefed several weeks before at an event for the Birmingham Institute, NICE, and she remembered enough to have an interesting conversation with us. I also remember how soft her hands were and the colour of her beautiful Chanel outfit.

That it how it was the early nineteen-nineties. Nowadays almost everyone seems to use high-tech instant cameras capable of bright, clear, focused photos that can be sent instantly all over the world, It was so very different then, when Diana was the most widely photographed, most widely recognisable woman on the planet – and so was what she was wearing.

Ah, the Naughty Nineties...! Unlike the Swinging Sixties, if you were there you remember it well.

Diana who?

A warm and powerful memory now for some – little now to most people. Like Elton John wrote in that dreadful song, she was 'a candle in the wind'. On Kiersten's Facebook page, Szilvia Mézáros (born 1980) asks, perhaps ironically –
Susie, wer ist das im blau?

'Who is that in blue?' That really does help perspectivise things, doesn't it, people and clothes

The Princess of Hearts and CE

I met Diana quite a few times in those strange times.

People often used to say to me that Princess Di must have been spreading considerable awareness of Conductive Education. I used to reply No, she was spreading enormous awareness of Princess Di. With the wisdom of hindsight it may be debated whether her association with our cause helped balance the powerful reaction against CE that was already well under way in the United Kingdon, not least from academics, professionals, the inclusionists and the disability movement. Perhaps it did, perhaps not. She never spoke a word publicly on behalf of CE: she was forbidden to. She was not allowed to say anything about anything till she had split from Charles – and then she split from CE too.

And please, no what-if history.


This very morning Budapest sees the book-launch event for Mária Hári's commemorative album (a book, not a CD). On page 184 of this there is a picture of Mária's receiving her Honorary OBE (a British civil award) from Diana who presents the medal on behalf of The Queen (well, actually, from Her Majesty's Government, specifically the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, but that is another story).

In the same commemorative album, Erzsébet Balogh remarks (on page 133) –

She [Mária Hári] did not have a great regard for such things, or at least she seemed not to.

You can say that again. Erzsi continues –

It was something else that connected her to Pető who, as rumour has it, 'declined' a Kossuth Prize.

On the same page, there is an unexplained photograph of Diana's meeting Mother Teresa, alongside  a passage quoted from the Daily Telegraph of 28 September 2011 –

In May 1990 the Princess and Prince Charles travelled to Hungary and made history by becoming the first members of the Royal Family to visit a former Warsaw Pact country. As well as sharing the celebrations at the end of Communism, the Princess visited the renowned Pető Institute for handicapped children where on behalf of the Queen she invested the director Dr Mária Hári with an Honorary OBE.

I've a feeling we're not in Fairyland anymore.


Tarsoly, I. (ed.) Emlékkönyv, Dr Hári Mária, 1923-2001, Budapest, PAF


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