Aggie 1920 - 2005

It is with great sadness that I have to inform you of the death of Miriam Goluchoy also affectionately known as Mim, Goli and Aggie. She died age 85 at a nursing home in West Wickham Kent on 23 December 2005. Her funeral was held at the Elmers End Cemetery on Wednesday 01 February 2006 and was attended by her nephew from Israel, her friends, many former students and staff from the nursing home. The service was a non-religious one conducted by a representative from the British Humanist Association. I received several letters and emails from her students requesting that if a tribute is read to the congregation it should rightly contain references to her teaching expertise, professional acumen and intellect, all of which we benefited from considerably. I believe the following tribute captures all that we felt about her:

I know I speak on behalf of her students who must number in their hundreds, for although we affectionately knew her as Mim, Goli and Aggie, we all knew her as a great teacher.

A great teacher is one who can practise what they preach and Aggie was a supreme craftsperson in her chosen medium of calligraphy, which she never let us forget is the most perfect abstract of all the arts.

In our age of computers and word processors, I’m sure that her former students here today cherish those times just sitting next to Aggie watching her creating the most meticulously hand written scripts. Watching the creative act like that is always quite wondrous and magical and of course she made it look so easy. It wasn’t.

We jealously kept the examples she wrote when demonstrating the perfect oblique ‘O’ or the taper that ended a letter; she was that impressive and important to us.

The great teacher is not only able to share their passion for a subject or skill but meet professional acclaim as well. We would watch with pride the credits and titles of TV programmes back in the 1950s and 60s that she wrote knowing that she was one of the best.

It seems in some cases that it’s not so much that we choose a medium to express ourselves in, but that a medium chooses us. Calligraphy chose Aggie for we saw in her personality and character that same sense of poise, sophistication and articulation.

Only yesterday I received a letter from one of her students back at the BSoA in 1945 who recalled what a cultured person Aggie was, for like all great teachers of the arts, they share their enthusiasm for other arts and crafts and Aggie never hesitated to do this.

Although I never became a master calligrapher, I can honestly claim that what Aggie taught me transferred over to my filmmaking. The connection may seem remote, but she taught me to look at the units of letters in terms of visual rhythms and lines of continuity. It was such sensitivity that assisted me in my film editing for the units I work in are shots and sounds and the same aesthetic criteria apply.

During her last years when she was unable to get out, I used to visit her and take along catalogues of exhibitions I had recently attended. We would spend hours looking at these and of course she always saw more in the paintings than I ever did.

I have to admit that each time I was about to leave at each Christmas visit, I stood in fear and trepidation…you see, I make my own Christmas cards, which of course include some calligraphy. Just this last Christmas I handed Aggie my card and stood waiting for an assessment as if I was still her student of forty-eight years ago, which of course I was…

I had practised writing ‘Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’ at least a dozen times, thinking what she would say about my effort. I made sure the loops of the letters were just right, the dot of each ‘i’ was over each ‘i’, that the flow and character of the letters were all uniform, the angle of the italic was consistent, “and not leaning over as if the words were falling down” she would say, and of course all written in black ink.

Aggie spent some time scrutinizing every letter in my greetings…and then looked up and said, “Mac…Grade ‘A’!
She was a teacher to the end.

Dear Aggie, we will think of you often, particularly when we put pen to paper, literally.

On behalf of all of your students, we thank you for sharing your wonderful gift.

Rest in Peace.

01 February 2006

Miriam Goluchoy

Ten years of my life, spent at the window or beneath the lamp. Practising calligraphy day and night without a break! Beside the ‘ink pond’ I’ve used up and the worn-out brushes pile high would make a Mount Ornei.
Xie Jin (1369-1425) Court official, Song of Cursive Calligraphy.

What I remember most about Aggie’s calligraphy lessons was that she kept us in touch with the ancient roots of calligraphy by insisting that we use not pots of ready made ink but grind down Chinese ink blocks into a little dish of water, as shown below until the right consistency was made. It was such a craftlike ritual that typified her integrity and aesthetic fidelity. Examples of her BSoA student’s calligraphy can be found in this website’s Art Gallery. The originals have been deposited at the Beckenham School of Art Archives situated at the Bromley Central Library.

Further tributes and recollections of her teaching will be most welcomed for inclusion on this website.