Learning Index >> The Life and Work of Bernard Leach

Early Life >> Leach's Early Life in the Far East
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Of the earliest material, one of the most fascinating documents - not in the Crafts Study Centre but owned by the family - is a series of diaries written in beautiful copperplate script by Leach's maternal grandmother Elizabeth Sharp. After running a school in Manchester, she and her husband Edmund Hamilton, decided to travel to Japan to teach English at the Doshista University, one of the first Christian colleges. En route she planned to see her daughter Nellie in Hong Kong, who had married Andrew John Leach and was expecting a child. Unfortunately, Nellie fell ill, and despite the care of her mother, died giving birth to a healthy child, named Bernard Howell Leach.

Distraught, Bernard's father, who was a lawyer, agreed that his parents in law should care for the child, and the infant was taken to Kyoto, to be brought up by grandparents, where he recalls his half Chinese, half Irish amah, 'the only person he felt loved him'. This time is recorded in a series of vivid and highly evocative photographs in the archive. When his father remarried he took his son back to Hong Kong and then Singapore where he had been appointed a judge. There are no records of any schooling, but as Leach himself says, he was a lonely child, spending his time drawing ships in the harbour and playing with worm casts, his first introduction to modelling earth.



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