Sad news for all of us who have worked on the Macmillan Dictionary: our former colleague Gwyneth Fox has died after a short illness. Gwyneth’s sudden death came as a tremendous shock to everyone who knew her. She had been retired for only five years and seemed to be full of energy and in excellent health.
Gwyneth joined the Macmillan team at the end of the 1990s, at an early stage in the dictionary’s development. Formerly a senior editor, then editorial director, at the Cobuild dictionary, and an early convert to corpus-based lexicography, Gwyneth brought with her not only her experience in dictionary-making, but an impressive background in teaching English, teaching teachers, and lecturing in linguistics. All of which proved to be invaluable assets as we developed the new dictionary together – and even more so after the Macmillan Dictionary was first published in 2002. At that point Gwyneth embarked on a programme of travel aimed at introducing the new dictionary to the widest possible audience. She worked phenomenally hard, making countless visits to schools and universities, talking to teachers and dictionary-users, and giving well-received presentations in bookshops and at conferences all over the world. Her remarkable ability to connect with teachers and students everywhere was critically important in helping us to put the Macmillan Dictionary on the map. And despite her astonishing work-rate – reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s never-ending tour – she never lost her enthusiasm and energy.
Gwyneth approached retirement with the same zest and energy she had shown throughout her career. Having entirely turned her back on work, she proceeded to fill her life with the things she enjoyed. Travel continued to figure prominently, and she undertook many adventurous trips to places she had always wanted to visit. Music, theatre, dance and the visual arts played a huge part in her life, with regular outings in Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, London and further afield; trips abroad were often timed to coincide with a performance she particularly wanted to see at the local opera house. She was an enthusiastic follower of sport, whether it was her beloved Scotland rugby team, tennis or golf. She read constantly and widely, gardened, walked, and enjoyed good food, good wine and the company of friends old and new.
Life wasn’t a ceaseless round of pleasure, though. Always eager to help those less fortunate than herself, Gwyneth volunteered regularly at a food bank on the outskirts of Birmingham. She was an active member of her local Labour party; visited a local primary school weekly to read with children who were struggling with learning to read; and befriended lonely elderly people through a scheme run by the RVS.
Her greatest joy, however, was her family. She took enormous pleasure and pride in her three daughters and delighted in spending time with them and their families, including her two young grandchildren. She will be greatly missed by very many people.Email this Post
Those who knew Gwyneth might like to know that more than 70 of her friends and family gathered on March 4th to give her an extremely heartfelt send-off, first at Lodge Hill cemetery and afterwards at beautiful Berrow Court in Edgbaston. She was remembered in a way she would have appreciated, with music, flowers, food and wine, and conversation, in some cases by people who had not seen each other for many years but came together to celebrate a life well lived.
Although I have known Gwyneth for over fifteen years since her elder daughter, Karen and my elder son, Ben married I only go to know her well last year. In an act of typical generosity she had me to stay whilst I was in recovery from a shoulder operation, a month after I had also been widowed.She was wonderful company and, in spite of my sling ,our feet did not touch the ground! Later in 2014 she arranged an outing to Glyndebourne Opera and there treated me to a birthday ‘picnic’. I was not able to be at her service as I was on the cruise ‘In search of the Northern Lights’ which was her idea: we were planning to share this adventure. I feel privileged to have made her as ‘a new best friend’ just in time.