Pamela Gillilan

This is an excerpt from a feature published in the Western Morning News on Thursday August 2nd 1984 - the poem 'Come away' can be found in The All Steel traveller


Pamela Gillilan ran a successful interior decorating business in Cornwall for nearly 30 years. During that time she and her husband David Gillilan had a hand in the interiors of many of Cornwall's grand houses.

Their work was so admired and her advice on colour pattern and overall look was so cleverly and generously given that she and David were persuaded to travel to London to help with the decoration of many grand London flats and houses whose owners and friends had discovered the business, Kilmar House, in Cornwall.

But on November the 5th 1974 everything changed - David who had been the hard working instigator of the business died.

In 1977 a new side to Pamela's life started to emerge. She began to write poetry. Firstly about the grief that she suffered after her husband died and later about a multitude of other emotions and happenings. Pamela had written poetry before she met David, before they had a family and were caught up in the everyday necessities of the business and family life.

Her work showed, put purely and simply, a genius for the written word - work that could be accessible to anyone that would strike a deep chord and yet was clever and knowing. Pamela's work was quickly recognised and she won the 1979 Cheltenham Festival Prize for her poem "Come Away' - Afterwards she went on to win prizes in Poetry Society competitions.

Pamela brought some of the best known poets of the day to read at Kilmar and she also became in demand for poetry reading herself - She showed a relaxed reading style and a forthright and unaffected connection with her listeners. Her first Collection of poems was published by Bloodaxe books in 1984 - "That winter" In 1984

A day in the Life of Pamela Gillilan

"I get up somewhere between seven and 9. That's the best time for writing for me, but I start work by nine thirty. I don't sit up in bed and write, except for weekends. When the post comes I open the letters that are addressed to Pamela Gillilan because I know that they are going to be related to poetry and they are usually nice! Then I look through the other post and sort out what bills to pay and what I have to order or quote for. Then I go down to the workshop. There's my best writing time gone.

Come Away

When I wrote 'Come Away' I was sitting up in bed - I had been to a party the night before and had picked a bedraggled looking Rhododendron bud.

When I woke up I looked at it and started to write this poem - an opening of the door poem - a sort of resurrection poem about the potential of this bud that had been wasted.

That poem was a trigger and I wrote 'Come Away' and I knew that it had already been in my mind.

Every day Life

I keep my shop open from 9.30 - 1pm. My priority is to pay the overheads on this house. Kilmar house is a big undertaking for me alone - it has 25 rooms and a large garden - I wish that someone would take over the business from me; sometimes I long to be free of it.

During the morning I dash upstairs for several cups of coffee and tea. The business that David and I built together, and that I now run alone, has brought me into contact with some very interesting people - many of our customers have become close friends - but It hasn't brought me a social life.


The first is waking.
The second is sleeping.
The third is the closed air of the house.
The fourth is the going out from its silence.
The fifth is the one ticket, the single supplement.
The sixth is the threshold’s hesitation; the maitre d’.
The seventh is coming back - to no answering voice.
The eighth is nothing moved or changed.
The ninth is sunshine unshared.
The tenth, after all, is not the last.

Pamela Gillilan

Poetry brings me much more of a social life because I read poetry all over the country. I did a really nice poetry reading in Bath recently with Ann Stevenson. It was a full house, a marvellous audience, sittings on the edge of their seats, and you knew they were really with you.

I will always treasure my memories of Frances Horovitz - Frances was a deeply spiritual person, she had a tremendous influence on my life. After she died Gillian Clarke and Paul Hyland organised a memorial reading for her.

Back to my day... At one o'clock I make myself a sandwich, every day I say to myself that I'm going to lose weight and do more excersise......but I never do.

In the afternoons I read or go shopping or write some poetry. I often pop in to see the upholsterer in the workshop or the girls in the sewing room to see how jobs are progressing.

Sometimes I visit a customer's home or, if they want a longer discussion without interruption's, they come to the showroom to discuss materials and the practicalities of design. Working as a decorator can be nerve racking. Every time we hang a new pair of curtains or fit a loose cover for a customer - it's like a first night.

I recently had an invitation to work in schools with the Writer in Schools scheme sponsored by South West Arts. You spend the day reading to children and encouraging them to write by setting some sort exercise. I really enjoy these days.

At five o'clock I'm off the hook. I go and eat and watch television - I watch much too much television - I think that it is an anxiety maker which increases tension. Perhaps I feel this because I am aware of all the other things that I could be doing.

I go to bed between 10.45 and 12.15 and then I read. I don't read poetry, whodunits or historical novels - lately I've read several Thomas Keneally. I hated the Woman's room which is supposed to be the hand book of feminism. We don't need war between men and women" From a Feature - A day in the life of....Pamela Gillilan

Titles available

All Steel Traveller

All-Steel Traveller

£8.95 in paperback

Plus £1.50 postage

Rashomon Syndrome

The Rashomon Syndrome

£6.95 in paperback

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