Gay and Lesbian Humanist

Spring 2005

Geoffrey Palmer (1912 – 2005)

by Michael Taylor

Geoffrey Palmer died at the age of 92 on 22 January. He had been in hospital in Norwich for only three weeks at the end of a long and productive life. He will be remembered very affectionately by many booksellers and customers in London and East Anglia in connection with the Compton Bookshop and, later, Hermitage Books. Both businesses were run with Noel Lloyd, who was his much-loved partner for more than fifty years.

Geoffrey, a GALHA member, was born in Edwinstowe, Nottinghamshire, on the edge of Sherwood Forest in 1912. He trained as a teacher and taught in Nottinghamshire and Middlesex until the beginning of World War Two, when his pacifist convictions and subsequent exemption from military service obliged him to leave teaching. His war years were spent doing civil defence work in the ambulance service and in the theatre with the Adelphi Players. He later formed his own small theatre group, worked with repertory companies in Wakefield, Sheffield and Nottingham, and eventually joined the Rock Theatre Company. It was while working for this company that he met Noel Lloyd, and both went on a six-month CEMA tour of the Far East.

After the war, and by now settled in London, Noel got a job with the Adelphi Guild Players and Geoffrey resumed teaching. He was appointed a deputy head in 1951 and in 1955 the headmaster of the new Highbury Quadrant School. He remained there until his retirement nineteen years later.

Geoffrey’s first book and only novel, To Church on Sunday, was published by Chapman and Hall in 1940. It is now almost impossibly hard to find. It augured the beginning of a later writing career with Noel. Their first joint book was published in 1962 and was followed by about thirty more. The books consisted of adventure and ghost stories and also many non-fiction titles for young people. Later significant titles included three of the “Observers” books published by Warnes, and biographies of E. F. Benson and also of his father. Geoffrey had long had a knowledgeable enthusiasm for Benson (and a book collection to match).

After his retirement in 1976, Geoffrey and Noel opened their bookshop in Upper Street, Islington, followed later by another in Eye, Suffolk. They issued many catalogues of general, modestly priced literature and were well-known figures on the East Anglian book-fair circuit until just before Noel’s death in 1998. Geoffrey’s last years were clouded by loss and by gradually declining health, but were not unproductive. He completed and published two useful monographs on the Brontës (another long-held enthusiasm) and republished some of the earlier Palmer/Lloyd titles. He issued a final couple of catalogues.

Geoffrey joined GALHA when Noel died (Noel had by then been a member for ten years) and Geoffrey made a generous donation to the group in Noel’s memory. He has made a bequest in his will to GALHA’s associated charity, the Pink Triangle Trust.

Geoffrey remained interested in the world and its ways, alert to the life of his friends, combative in his opinions, generous, brave, a good companion and a memorable personality. He will be much missed.

Geoffrey Palmer’s evocative article You Don’t Have to be Sad to be Gay appeared in G&LH Winter 2004-2005.
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Created : Sunday, 2005-06-05 / Last updated : Wednesday, 2007-12-12
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