Tributes to Caroline

Caroline Heaney was the founder, editor and publisher of the Elfin Diary. She was an exceptional person who had led an exceptional life. I am proud to have known her and even more proud that she asked me, when she knew she was dying, to continue publishing the Diary. Loved by many, the tributes to her poured in after her death. This is a small sample that I published in the 2012 Diary ~ Val Dobson

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You, too? I thought I was the only one.” ~ C. S. Lewis

From Judi Barnes:
Unique, imaginative, independent, generous, kind, funny, unafraid, industrious, resolute, dog-loving, demanding, wild, feisty, prudish, occasionally cantankerous, – sometimes child-like; now free.
All of the above and more can be attributed to Caroline. Who amongst her friends can claim never to have been warmed by her friendship, amazed by her resilience, or scorched by her fire? I, for one, would rather have bound myself in barbed-wire and rolled naked down a hillside than incur the wrath of Caroline! But then there’s no accounting for artistic temperament is there? – and she was talented artistically; she had “a good eye” and a real flair for design and style. She always knew when something looked exactly as it should.
Caroline never seemed to succumb to the trivia of daily life. Life – she once told me – was “too short to stuff a mushroom”. Domesticity wasn’t really one of her strong points. I was amazed when she finally agreed to give her little kitchen a makeover; but – given that the bathroom above had partially collapsed and fallen through the ceiling into her original kitchen – I suppose she didn’t have much of a choice! She didn’t often waste time with a duster either, and vacuumed only when absolutely necessary. Spiders were welcome guests at Wingfield House, and she kept a fishing net to hand so that she could release the various misguided bees, butterflies and moths that would drift in and out of her ever-open door – houseflies invariably turned to dust on the windowsills. She liked to keep houseplants too – the variety and size of which would have done credit to a rainforest. I can’t remember how many times we hauled weighty, triffid-bearing pots in and out-of-doors, according to the season. With Caroline, whenever there was a will, there was always a way! A length of wire, a nail or two, and her trusty hammer (and, invariably, some choice language) were all that was required to keep on top of running repairs around the house and garden. And – when all else failed – she could always rely on Louis, whom she trusted with her life.
Then there were the dogs, the beloved hounds: the glorious, silken lunacy that is the afghan. They loved to tear up and down the stairs, wild-eyed with fur flying, before leaping elegant and gazelle-like from the bottom stair out through the back door and onto the lawn. They were her children. On them she lavished unconditional love and met their every need – she was, quite simply, their mum. I vividly recall the awful agony of Hermes’ demise; the same Hermes who once tried to stuff a half-dead pheasant down the back of Caroline’s sofa; and then the exquisite delight of travelling back from Wales with the golden lamb-like pup curled sleepily on my lap, the pup that grew to become Isis. All were individual animals, all enormous personalities – all so very Caroline.
I also recall those days when the living room at Wingfield was transformed into a workshop: a real hive of activity. Caroline would gather a workforce of friends to collate the Elfin calendars – oh how I shall miss my Elfin calendars – and the efficiency of the assembly line had to be seen to be believed. We turned out hundreds of them each year. Her team of friends also helped her to pack the free gifts which she sent out with the diaries. It was real finger-aching work to poke crystals, coins, miniature Tarot cards – whatever the gift of the year – into tiny plastic bags. And it was of course the diaries themselves to which she dedicated most of her working hours; no two were ever quite the same. Only a very select few were ever admitted onto the production team and I know how highly she valued and relied on their input. She was always very particular about who she would entrust with things like printing and binding – heaven help the poor soul who “got it wrong” and had to face her displeasure. Perfection was what she required – and perfection was what she always – ultimately – achieved. Her diaries are well loved and received all over the world; many beyond family and friends will mourn her passing.
May she finally be at peace amongst the stars, unicorns, flowers and afghans – and know that she was well loved.
Je n’en crois pas elle est partie.
June 2011

From Maxine Cooke:
I never had the pleasure in meeting Caroline, but grew to know her through the Elfin diary and her newsletters. I admired her courage and determination throughout her illness and she always seemed to carry on smiling. May Caroline meet her Afghans in the Summerland.

From Lisa Mckee:
Caroline, I’ve known you for 21 yrs. When i first met you i was completely blown away by your “bespoke” personality. There is no one in the world can take your place you were one of a kind you taught me so much hippy I’ll never forget; you didn’t spend much time with you last few years for one reason or another except for the occasional meeting in Sainsburys or Asda but you’ve always been in my thoughts as you always will be. Give Pandora and Elfin a hug for me darling and all the others that i cant quite remember…..See you in the next life hippy all my love Lisa xxxx

From Andy Keys:
I was given my first Elfin diary in around 1995, I think. I’ve had them most years since, and have come to consider Caroline as a sort of pen-friend, although I only sent her money & she sent me all the letters! Certainly an almost daily part of my life, and a diary so full of love it makes me smile every time I open it.

From Joanna Hordern Curzon:
Like many others, I never met Caroline but became very fond of her through her wonderful personal newsletters, and so grateful for the Elfin diaries over many years. We were in contact a little by email, and I was touched by her kind, warm, generous soul.

From Libithina*: This is so difficult to write a fitting tribute/dedication to Caroline the editor and founder of this wonderful ‘Elfin’ diary. Named after her first beloved afghan hound, it has been in circulation for nearly twenty years. I recall my first copy, many years ago now, bought for me by my daughter from Waterstones Bookshop in Liverpool. It was in an amber grained gold colour concealed in a thick plastic pocket of the same colour, all beautifully embossed and engraved and I still have it, as I have all of my copies of ‘Elfin’. Caroline in her time worked for none other than Foyle of the internationally acclaimed and celebrated bookshops ‘Foyles’ in Charing Cross Road, London as a P.A. of which people travel to this day from all corners of the globe. She partied with the Beatles in London, was well travelled and anyone who ever saw one of her photo CDs were treated to the most wonderful variety of flowers and blooms that surrounded her as this was also a passion, she adored flowers. As a botanist her knowledge was wide, I will treasure my CDs. A huge character, with a heart and sense of humour to match, wrapping up my last delivery of ‘Elfin’ diaries, she enclosed some catalogues that she thought I would enjoy and I did. When asked how she was she always quoted from the Stevie Smith poem still ‘waving not drowning’. Her character touched every page as we the reader dipped into this rich well of experience and knowledge in this her labour of love.
Caroline too enjoyed her quotes so I thought it apt to choose a quote that perhaps described the path and unique trail that Caroline grooved and in moulding made her own. ‘Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail’ ~ Harold R. McAlindon.

*’Libithina’ was the pen-name of Libby Hawkins, a delightful Liverpudlian who wrote all the Diary’s Chinese astrology articles. I met her face to face for the first and only time at Caroline’s funeral in Longridge, when she made the long and difficult journey from Liverpool in her wheelchair, using public transport. A generous and positive lady with a great laugh, she passed away suddenly in 2014.