In Memory of Marjory Barlow

Article added December 28, 2006

Marjory Barlow
9th May 1915 – 5th December 2006

Anthony Kingsley writes:

It is with sadness that we announce the passing of Majory Barlow, one of the great luminaries of the first generation of Alexander teachers. As Alexander’s niece, she was very proud to have been christened Marjory Amy Alexander Mechin. She joined Alexander’s first training course in 1932, and later married Bill Barlow who also trained on Alexander’s first training course.

Together with her husband Bill, they founded the Alexander Institute, which became a dynamic centre for experienced Alexander teachers in central London. The Alexander Institute trained a number of Alexander teachers of its own. In 1986 The Alexander Institute moved from Albert Court to its new location at 16 Balderton Street.

I had my first lesson with Bill in 1977, and then started private lessons. Soon after, I moved to Israel and enrolled on the Alexander Teaching School in Jerusalem. In 1977, I returned to London and met up again with Marjory for a lesson. After the lesson, she said to me, “Would you like to join Bill and myslf and be one of our teachers at the Alexander Institute?” I was very fortunate and honored to be asked, and to this day, I am grateful to have been offered the wonderful opportunity of working with Marjory and Bill.

She was always kind and generous with her time and experience. She would often recount stories about Alexander with great respect and devotion. I felt she was a faithful and passionate guide to Alexander’s legacy. I am still inspired by her clear and vibrant hands and her open, no-nonsense approach to teaching.

George J.D. Bruce wrote in the February Edition of STAT NEWS:

My first impression on meeting Marjory in her teacher training course at Albert Court was of a gentle, seemingly fragile person. Yet her looks belied the strength that flowed within her.

To witness her directive skills, working through her hands, perhaps during a first or early lesson when getting a big man in or out of a chair, was as impressive as it was astonishing to the pupil himself. Being told by her uncle that she was not strong enough to be trained to teach the Technique, made her all the more determined to do just that.

Many who had the privilege of being worked on by her will be aware of the strength of the Alexander direction which she imparted, always contained with the absolute minimum of touch. A stickler for the pure basics, she was not enthusiastic about forms and types of ordering or directing that might stray from simple Inhibition and Direction. The Technique is hierarchical, she would say:

“First Inhibition.Then, Neck to be free. Head forward and up. Back to lengthen and widen. This was good enough for F.M. and that’s good enough for me”.

She had a way of teaching and guidance without implying any sense of superiority. In training students she gave time to care for the balalnce of individuals whose evolving persona might sometimes undergo considerable changes. An Alexander teacher’s teacher clearly has immense responsibilities. This may have been part of her reason for a reluctance to expose her students to those of other training courses until they had acheived a certain level of stability in working towards their qualification.

At one time a fairly heavy smoker, Marjory decided to give up, which she did. But there was one occasion, a while after this, that I was quite surprised to find her having a quiet puff in the saloon of the Barlows’ holiday home “The Seahorse”. This was a delightful hundred-year-old steam schooner, permanently beached at West Mersea. Those of us who were lucky enough to be invited had many a happy time there. On seeing my possibly naive state of shock at finding her smoking, she explained that she had given up the habit and the decision to stop had indeed been taken. Allowing herself to have literally that one, was proof to herself there need be no blind rigidity or “fixing” in her decision. Indeed I never did see her smoke again.

When asked how she taught children, the answer was inevitably: “I teach them to inhibit and order exactly the same way as I do grown-ups. Children are often much easier to teach than grown-ups, whose minds are frequently cluttered with irrelevant preoccupations.”

For some years Majory studied the guitar under the tutelage of the renowned Julian Bream, who was one of her pupils. When not being practised upon, the precocious instrument sat on this sacrosanct chair in a corner of her teaching room that I so well remember.

In parting from her company she would give you her warm smile and say “Lookafter yourself.” – Quite an undertaking!

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