Sadly our founder, past chairman and secretary, Kenn Oultram, passed away on the 9th March this year (2023). He had not been well for some time and had become a resident in a nursing home in Northwich.
The funeral and internment were held at St Michaels and All Angels’ Church in Little Leigh Cheshire on the 31st March and was attended by Irene Rutter and David Lornie from the society.
We must thank the O’Brien family who, although unrelated, were closely connected with Kenn through their involvement with the Blue Grass Kennels and Cattery. Jason O’Brien, in particular, gave a fitting and amusing tribute to Kenn.
Kenn’s drive, personality and dry sense of humour will be sorely missed by all in the society.
Below are two tributes to Kenn. One, a document which was found in amongst some old papers and the other from long term friend and co founder of the society Selwyn Goodacre.
Our Chairman, Liz Wright, sent us the following which she found in amongst some papers:-
In the mid 1960’s Kenn Oultram placed a letter in the Church Times requesting information on churches associated with Carroll/Dodgson and received a reply from Dr Selwyn Goodacre. They met for the first time at the inaugural meeting of the Lewis Carroll society at County Hall, London in November 1969. In 1968, as a journalist with the Chester Chronicle, Kenn wrote a piece on Wirral-born illustrator Ralph Steadman and, thus inspired, on March 13th 1970, the inaugural meeting of the Daresbury Lewis Carroll Society, organised by Kenn, took place in the parish room at Daresbury. Those attending this meeting included the vicar, the Revd. Wyndam Lewis, the village blacksmith, Colin Dale, who designed the Wonderland weathervane atop of Daresbury Primary school, Sue Markham a teacher at Daresbury school who became our first treasurer, later to be succeeded by her mother and Stan de Prez. Subsequent meetings have been held at the Daresbury Hotel, the vicarage, Daresbury Hall, Daresbury Lodge, the Physics laboratory, Warrington Museum, Walton Hall, Padgate college and at the Markham’s former Warrington residence.
Kenn has brought speakers at the society meeting who have come from seven countries plus many from the UK including Scotland’s Astronomer Royal and the director of the National Media Museum in Bradford. Others have included Alice Liddell’s great niece, Lewis Carroll’s great, great niece, a university graduate who achieved a PhD with a thesis on Walt Disney, David Schaefer from the USA who showed a newsreel of Alice Liddell arriving in New York in 1932, local scholar Roger Lancellyn Green, Londoner Gerald King who showed a set of Wonderland postage stamps in the currency of winks(40 winks = 1 golden slumber) and the president of the Flat Earth Society. He also introduced Lord Kitchener to the Society.
Kenn organised events to mark Lewis Carroll’s 150th birthday and 175th years of birth and also the centenary of his death in 1998. There was drama at the 150th when our president, the Revd. Stanley Beckett, announced that the lectern had been stolen that very day! The theft was featured on Granada TV and the lectern was subsequently discovered in an antiques shop in the Wirral.
Kenn attended the inauguration of the Lewis Carroll memorial in Poet’s Corner, Westminster Abbey in 1982, when Revd. Beckett read one of the lessons. He organised a society visit to Macclesfield for the world premiere of Through the Looking Glass, with its Wasp in a Wig chapter reinstated. At the 60th anniversary of the installation of the Lewis Carroll window Kenn arranged a concert.
Ken says his greatest claim to fame is solving the mystery which had baffled the publishers (MacMillans) and Carrollians for seventy years! Who was the artist who coloured Tenniel’s Alice illustrations? Kenn mentioned it to a party of Daresbury visitors and an elderly lady beckoned him over to tell him that the artist had been her father Harry Theaker (1873 to 1954).
Selwyn Goodacre a fellow founder of the Society (see article from Liz Wright) sent us his tribute to Kenn:
Kenn died at the grand age of 87. He was my longest lasting Lewis Carroll friend – which started when I read an advert in a parish magazine insert in the mid-1960s (Liz says this was in The Church Times but my recollection differs) in which he said he was researching churches in Cheshire featuring Cheshire Cats. As Liz said, I contacted him and this led to a friendship that developed over the years.
Liz comments on his skill in finding speaker for the Society meetings. For many years he was virtually the sole organiser of our meetings and I remember the vist by Florence Becker Lennon, whom he chaperoned around during her stay in the area,
In the early days we protested that The Lord Daresbury Hotel, which was build in the 1960s and 70s,. should be called the ‘Lewis Carroll Hotel’ – but we were small in numbers, and sadly our thoughts were never considered.
The hotel still has an amazing Lewis Carroll mosaic that used to be in the bar area. It is now covered over, but I believe is still there underneath – It seems that the various folk in charge of the Hotel over the years live in a state of flux as regards the Carroll link. Kenn used to be able to persuade them (on account of his giving them publicity) that our Society should have their meetings at the Hotel for free, and for a number of years this was so - but sadly not the case at the present time.
The concept of Cheshire Cats appealed to him, and he wrote articles discussing their origin, and organised competitions for Cat lovers,. as well as devising a Cheshire Cat literary trail.
Ken worked all his life at the Blue Grass Animal Hotel in Little Leigh, near Northwich I was always impressed by the efficiency and organisation of the business, the animals were beautifully cared for. I often used to drive there to pick him up for meetings,
For some years he and I were on a committee that hoped to establish a Lewis Carroll Centre in Daresbury. Sadly this never came to fruition, though in recent years the Church has created and built a fine annexe in honour of Lewis Carroll
Kenn introduced the idea of an "Alice" (selected from local little girls) who could be invited to local Alice-related events, and also to accompany him on his literary tours, The choosing of a suitable girl was later taken over by folk in Llandudno. It is claimed that he was responsible for having Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland translated into Manx and Liverpudlian Scouse.