Heather Brigstocke

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Heather Renwick Brigstocke, Baroness Brigstocke, CBE (2 September 1929 – 30 April 2004) was a classics teacher, Conservative life peer and atlanticist networker - running the English Speaking Union between 1993-1999.

Heather Brown was born in Reading, Berkshire, the daughter of Squadron Leader John Renwick Brown, DFC, RAF and was educated at The Abbey School, Reading and Girton College, Cambridge. In 1952 she married the diplomat Geoffrey Brigstocke and they had four children, three sons and one daughter.

From 1951 to 1953, she was classics mistress of Francis Holland School and in 1962 travelled with her husband to his post in Washington D.C., where she was Latin teacher at National Cathedral School. In 1963, they returned to London and she became the headmistress of Francis Holland School from 1965 to 1974 and High Mistress of St Paul's Girls' School from 1974 to 1989. On 21 May 1990, she was created a life peer as Baroness Brigstocke, of Kensington in the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and sat as a Conservative. She was part of many educational societies during the 1990s and was the founding Chairman of Home-Start International.

Her first husband had died in 1974 on Turkish Airlines Flight 981 and on 22 January 2000, she married fellow peer, Hugh Griffiths. Baroness Brigstocke died in 2004, aged 74 in Athens, a victim of a road traffic accident.

In the US

There was a particularly busy period in her early life, when she taught Classics in London, produced her first three children, then escaped the humdrum to accompany her diplomat husband, Geoffrey Brigstocke, whom she married in 1952, to Washington. There she taught Latin at the National Cathedral School and made some of her most important contacts. She made her first public speech in the White House - a vote of thanks to the Kennedys for hosting a children's tea party. "Just wear plenty of lipstick," she was advised. "That keeps the audience's attention focused." She became an impressive speaker, with a mellifluous voice and a relaxed manner - and she never forgot the lipstick...
In 1993, she assumed the chairmanship of the English-Speaking Union and used her formidable network of contacts to give the organisation a hitherto undreamed-of international dimension. The ESU was originally founded to strengthen relations between Britain, the United States and the English-speaking countries of the Commonwealth. While improving these traditional ties, Brigstocke oversaw the launch of nine new branches, in countries as diverse as China, Japan, Eastern Europe and Brazil where English was not the first language; she set up steering committees for two more.
China is a typical example of her modus operandi. A headmistress colleague had just married the British ambassador to Beijing, so Brigstocke sent a message, "When you see Joan, tell her I have a little job for her." The "little job" was setting up a branch of the ESU in China. This was not strictly possible, as China had no NGOs at the time, but Joan did lay the foundations of the China Universities English-Speaking Association, and soon afterwards found herself, as Lady Appleyard, appointed a Deputy Chairman of the entire ESU. ("The Chinese loved Heather. She was their image of a glamorous English lady.") During Heather Brigstocke's chairmanship, the brave decision was taken to borrow, in order to carry out much-needed renovation of the ESU's Dartmouth Street premises.[1]


  1. Anne Mustoe, Baroness Brigstocke Consummate chairman and charismatic High Mistress of St Paul's Independent on sunday, Friday, 7 May 2004