Focusing on Brechiner’s life

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A PIONEERING speech therapist who hailed from Brechin will be the focus is a Radio North Angus programme tomorrow, Thursday, December 6.

Celebrated Brechiner, Catherine Hollingworth OBE, was a speech therapist in London at the same time as Lionel Logue, who featured in the Oscar winning film ‘The Kings Speech’.

At a time when there were very few speech therapists Catherine Hollingworth was in London during the period that George VI struggled with a debilitating stammer.

Speech therapy was a new and emerging branch of health care and pioneers like Lionel and Catherine offered hope for stammerers, and it was this work that was brilliantly showcased in the film.

Catherine Hollingworth led an amazing life full of challenges and achievements that singled her out as a woman who many now regard as a visionary.

Born and schooled in Brechin, Catherine left for London, encouraged by her father, to study at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts (RADA).

With no prospect of a career she got involved in several amateur dramatic societies locally and in England but eventually returned to London in the 1930s.

A severe facial injury incurred after being thrown through a vehicle windscreen restricted her power of speech, and she managed to regain her speech with grit, determination and application.

These self-taught techniques helped her to aid others who had speech defects, but the outbreak of the Second World War caused her to return to Scotland.

Employed by Aberdeen Council to start a project for children’s drama as part of their education syllabus Catherine established a department that excelled despite restricted funding and numerous other obstacles.

Her teaching practices were copied by other countries, and her pioneering work was recognised with the award of an OBE in 1965.

Following retirement Catherine worked with stroke patients in Ninewells Hospital before ill health forced her to stop working completely when she was well into her 80s.

She died in 1999 aged 95 and her remains are interred with her parents in Brechin cemetery. Yet her story is largely unknown in her home town.
Only recently Catherine’s life and work was featured at an exhibition in the Brechin Town House Museum, and Steve Nicoll of the Friends of the Museum presented an illustrated talk to accompany the exhibition.

Steve will talk about this remarkable lady with Radio North Angus presenter, Grahame Lockhart, on his programme, on Thursday, December 6, at 11.05 a.m.

Make a point of listening to RNA on 87.7FM or 96.6 FM to hear more about the girl from Brechin whose influence was world-wide.

She could have been the one to help the new King, George VI overcome his stammer and help him make his inspired wartime radio broadcast on Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939.