Dr Margaret Mary Louise Pirouet

Photo: Black and white photo of Louise Pirouet teaching.

Dr Margaret Mary Louise Pirouet, Senior Lecturer in Religious Studies at Homerton College 1978-1989, died peacefully on 21 December 2012.  There will be a Memorial Service at Great St Mary’s Church at 12.00 noon on 10 January.

Louise came to Homerton from the University of East Africa, at Makere in Uganda where she had been teaching religious studies and undertaking radical and innovative research.  She subsequently taught for many years in the Religious Studies Department at Homerton alongside Jean Holm and Grahame Miles.

In Uganda, she built on her doctoral research which had involved the extensive interviewing of African Christians about their perceptions of the faith that they had received from European missions.  She was supportive thereby of the earliest African scholars’ own expressions of their adopted and developing theology.  Louise left Uganda in the wake of Idi Amin's ejections of foreign personnel and persecution of many of his own people. She had developed a deep attachment to Uganda and its people and retained many contacts both in that country and with exiles in the UK. There was a constant stream of visitors to her home and many also passed through Homerton.

Through their experiences and those of many others seeking political asylum in Britain she developed a deep concern not only for their plight, but also for what she regarded as the often inhumane treatment they received from the authorities in the UK. In later years much of her energy was focussed on the 'obscene' conditions in the refugee and asylum seeker local holding centre in Oakington, Cambridgeshire,  which was eventually closed in 2010.

Louise was a tough and feisty campaigner with a sustained commitment to social justice on all fronts. Within Homerton she contributed to the work on gender equality and to the development of multi-cultural perspectives in teaching. She did not have a lot of time for ideological posing or discussions: for her it was patently obvious that some residual attitudes and practices were nonsense and that we had better do something to change things ... now!

She was a regular attender at Great St Mary's where she showed a similar impatience with the Church's slowness to recognise what to her was patently obvious -- for example the place of women in the ministry of the church.

She was an extremely intelligent woman, knowledgeable in history, religious studies and fine art, but wholly unpretentious, living very modestly and focussing her energy not on her own needs or ambitions but on the service of others whom she saw to be more sorely in need of support.  She published books on African history and one important socio-political plea for justice for asylum seekers in Britain.