Clare was born into a Quaker family, the youngest child of Henry Wilson, a psychiatrist, and his wife, Ruth, a founding member of the Marriage Guidance Council (now Relate). She grew up in St John’s Wood, London, with a view to Lord’s cricket ground. A peripatetic school career culminated in her studying history at St Anne’s College, Oxford, from 1955 to 1958.
My friend Clare Currey, who has died aged 79, put her considerable intellectual and organisational skills to good use, whether offering help at a Citizens Advice bureau or supporting writers who have changed the way people perceive Africa.
At university, Clare met James Currey. After marrying in 1962, they headed to Cape Town, where James had a position with Oxford University Press. Always a meticulous record taker, in 1964, Clare observed and recorded the final stages of the Rivonia Trial which led to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela and other ANC leaders.
Typically, Clare reflected as much on the human impact on those attending the court – in particular the wives of the accused – as on the legal process itself. Later in 1964, involved in non-violent work against apartheid, and faced with certain detention after helping their friend, Randolph Vigne, a founder member of the African Resistance Movement, to evade arrest, the Curreys fled South Africa. It was more than two decades before they were able to return.
James became a key figure in developing the African Writers Series for Heinemann, and then, encouraged by Clare, set up an eponymous imprint to publish books specialising in African history and politics. Visitors to their flat in Islington, north London, navigated stacks of books and remember Clare’s encouragement and lunches. The Curreys worked together at conferences worldwide to promote their books, finding new authors and, always, new friends.
Women were often at the centre of Clare’s concerns, particularly women in education. Living in rural Hertfordshire in the 1970s, she encouraged women who might not otherwise have considered doing so to join her in taking A-levels at the local school. She also started a playgroup, and before the concept became widely fashionable, co-founded one of the first reading groups in Britain in the late 1960s. In recent years Clare conjured up a series of remarkable speakers for the University of the Third Age in Oxford.
She is survived by James, her children, Hal and Tamsin, four granddaughters and her brother, Lyn Wilson.