Friday, 9 June 2017



Rowena died on Monday. For more than a year now the advance of multiple sclerosis and cancer had made her life increasingly hard, to the point where she was no longer mobile. She remained, however, 'the old Ro'. No one could be tougher.

She was born in New Zealand into a Scottish farming family. She trained as a teacher and became a special educator, specialising on children who were deaf, deaf-blind and blind. In the late nineteen-eighties she was one of the pioneers who expanded awareness of Conductive Education in New Zealand society. In 1991 she travelled to the UK and to Hungary to gather data for her MEd dissertation, which was on Conductive Education.

The next year she took a bigger bite at the conductive cherry. From January 1992 to August 1993 she lived and worked in Budapest as resident tutor to the final tranche of the Foundation for Conductive Education's trainees, who were following the four-year, full-time course at the Pető Institute to become conductors.

In those highly politicised times it was particularly critical that their training went well. Rowena was concerned for the trainees' social, psychological and physical welfare, and the course of their studies, She liaised both with the Foundation back in Birmingham, and with the Pető Institute (especially with Mária Hári), and trouble-shot generally. The trainees passed.

Back in 1972 Rowena had married Lajos (Lali) Somogyváry, a 56-er who had settled in New Zealand and become a prominent member of the Hungarian community. She had already developed a great affinity for Hungarians and Hungarianness. Lali of course went to Budapest with her and, as she often remarked, 'the Foundation 'got two for the price of one', with Lali's contributing to her work in his unique way. In turn, he had a chance to live once more in Budapest, and show Rowena something of where he came from. To reflect this, here is a link to something about Rowena and Lali, in Hungarian, in the newsletter Magyar Szó, no 86, from December 2006:

(Scroll down about half way for the three relevant paragraphs. NB her age is wrongly stated)

Lali had died in 2005. Rowena had always been a great traveller. Despite her multiple sclerosis she continued to see the world:

She also continued with special education, tutoring children with learning disabilities in a room in her house that she had converted for this purpose. Rowena loved children – tough love – and she loved teaching them, continuing to do so into her seventies.

Rowena was bold and she was kind. She left her mark.

Memorial book

This will now remain permanently archived on line. Further reminiscences and photos are welcomed:

Memorial book

This will now remain permanently on line. Further reminiscences and photos are welcomed.


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