Many members will be sad to hear the news that Speech and Language Therapist and co-founder of the BSA, Peggy Dalton, passed away last November. Here are some fond tributes to Peggy and her life’s work.
Peggy graduated from Oxford with a degree in English and developed her interest in the theatre. She worked in repertory, travelling around England and in 1958 toured America with the Old Vic Repertory Company. Her interest in speech and language, combined with the uncertainty of theatrical life, prompted a career move, and Peggy qualified as a Speech and Language Therapist (SLT) in 1966. Through her contact with Fay Fransella, a psychologist who, like Peggy, had a particular interest in stammering, she was drawn to Personal Construct Psychology (PCP), which aims to understand the psychological construction of speech and language difficulties. Throughout her career Peggy combined speech and language therapy with the theory and practice of PCP and promoted this in her teaching and writing. She was instrumental in maintaining courses which to this day continue to be particularly attractive to SLTs.
Peggy and Fay collaborated on the practitioners’ guide Personal Construct Counselling in Action. Peggy went on to write A Psychology for Living, an easily accessible introduction to PCP for clinicians and people who stammer, which she co-authored with Gavin Dunnett.
In 1983, her husband Bill experienced an illness which led Peggy to refocus her professional life and work from home, providing therapy and constructivist intervention, as well as teaching and writing.
Peggy never fully retired and maintained a lively curiosity and interest in everything and everyone around her. Sadly, she lived with rheumatoid arthritis which constricted her daily life. She remained determinedly independent, resourceful and good-humoured, but a deterioration in her condition led to her final hospital admission. She died on November 8th, 2012.
Adele Pile, Dysfluency Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, Kent Community Health NHS Trust
In 1992, Peggy wrote about how she became disenchanted with ‘batteries of tests and treatment programmes which took no account of the nature of the persons with whom we aimed to make quite profound changes’. She finally found what she was looking for in PCP and demonstrated its value as a significant addition to more traditional approaches. I was also looking for a better way to help people make self-directed and meaningful changes in their lives and was lucky enough to be part of the first training course in PCP in 1979, run by Peggy. I remember her patience as she helped me make sense of the complex language and the abstract philosophical descriptions that might well have sent me away in despair. She helped me discover the guiding principles that have become the pillars of my work today, and supervised me as I took my first steps applying what I learned.
Peggy was patient, kind and thoughtful, keeping us on task and facilitating us to grow as individuals and as therapists. She was a leading light in the field and will be greatly missed by the profession, but her articles and books keep her work alive for future generations of SLTs.
Willie Botterill, Clinical Manager, the Michael Palin Centre
I had been running a self-help group for people who stammer in London for ten years, and one night Peggy came along to one of our meetings. At the end she told me that she wanted to form a group with an input from SLTs, so we agreed to have an inaugural meeting to form the new Association for Stammerers (or AFS, as BSA was then called).
Peggy cared very much for the disadvantaged, and people who stammered were her great interest. She had a great desire to help us get through life. Peggy played such a big part in our stammering lives; we owe so much to her.
Sparrow Harrison, co-founder of the BSA
I first met Peggy in 1975 and remember it clearly, as we tend to remember landmark events in our lives. I was just out of university and seeking help for my stammer. By complete luck I had found my way to one
of the UK’s leading fluency therapists. Peggy offered me a place on a course at the City Lit in London and it would be no exaggeration to say that this was a life-changing event. Peggy played a major part in establishing the speech therapy department at City Lit as a national centre of excellence for work with adults who stammer.
One memory I have of Peggy is that she gave us her home phone number so we could practice calling her and saying our name (often a big fear for people who stammer). I vividly recall one morning building myself up for this; not only did I have to say my name, an event I avoided at all costs, but I had to negotiate the P and D of hers! That she invited us to call her out of hours on a Sunday morning is an example of Peggy’s great dedication to her clients and her generosity with her time. Having qualified as an SLT myself, I encountered Peggy’s skill and wisdom again as I signed up for her PCP training course back at City Lit. I owe Peggy a great debt of gratitude and feel enormously lucky that it was at her door I found myself all those years ago.
Carolyn Cheasman, Specialist Speech and Language Therapist, City Lit
From the Spring 2013 edition of Speaking Out, p22