FREDA BRUCE LOCKHART, who died on Saturday, November 7, at the age of 78, was for 23 years the film critic of the Catholic Herald. Named "Catholic Woman of the Year" soon after her retirement in September 1984, her witty and perceptive reviews became a wellloved feature of the paper during her many years as a valued contributor.
Born on April 13, 1909, Freda Bruce Lockhart trained as an actress and made her West End stage debut in 1927 at the Whitehall Theatre. She went on to take numerous roles in rep at Liverpool, in London and on Broadway, including that of understudy to Gertrude Lawrence.
She appeared in one film at the dawn of age of talking pictures, and in 1935 began her long career as a film critic. First with the Film Weekly, then the Daily Sketch, Tatler, Time and Tide and Woman magazine, she established an unrivalled reputation as a writer on the cinema.
In 1961 she joined the Catholic Herald. Despite the onset of multiple sclerosis, she remained a regular feature at London previews of new releases.
Gerard Noel, editor of the Catholic Herald during her time as film critic, recalls Freda Bruce Lockhart's courage in the face of the debilitating effects of the disease. "Freda's gallantry in getting herself everywhere she wanted, unloading her own wheelchair from inside the car, and never missing a film she needed to see, became a London wonder. How lucky she was for being immensely tough in one way, yet so exquisitely gentle, sensitive and empathetic at the same time".
With her retirement Freda Bruce Lockhart moved to Sussex from London, but continued to contribute book reviews to the paper.
In 1968, she published a pioneering work, London for the Disabled, which listed access facilities for those in wheelchairs, and which began a campaign for better provision in public buildings for those with physical handicaps.
Freda Bruce Lockhart came from a distinguished family. The youngest of six children, with five brothers, she shared a family gift for the written word. One of her brothers, Sir Robert Bruce Lockhart wrote of his adventures during the Russian Revolution in Memoirs of a British Agent. Robert's son, Robin, penned the popular TV series Riley, Ace of Spies, and a history of the Carthusians. Other brothers were the Scottish rugby international, Rufus Bruce Lockhart, headmaster of Sedbergh, and Rupert, an acclaimed singer teaching.
In recent years, in addition to her multiple sclerosis, Freda Bruce Lockhart had battled with cancer. Her marriage in 1940 ended in divorce six years later.