"she is swift" [NOBL]
One of the most difficult tasks we undertake with this site is reporting on the deaths of fellow Sherlockians, and this one is no exception, as we knew her personally. Francine Morris Swift, BSI ("The Wigmore Street Post Office") has passed beyond the Reichenbach. She died this morning after a brief illness.
Those who knew Francine remember a woman who could be at times outgoing, at at other times quietly pensive. She was a true Sherlockian, being a long-time member of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes ("Hatty Doran") and having received her investiture in the Baker Street Irregulars in 1994. I don't know about any of her local involvements - perhaps those who lived near her could fill in the gaps.
What I do know is that she found her perfect mate when she met Wayne Swift, BSI ("The Giant Rat of Sumatra"). The two made up one of those rarities in Sherlockian circles: a couple comprised of two individuals who equally enjoy the Canon. Wayne wrote about a great many subjects that he and Francine enjoyed, including trains, music, P.G. Wodehouse and horse racing, to name a few. In fact, he authored the 2000 Baker Street Journal Christmas Annual: History of the Silver Blaze, in which he recounted the first 50 years of the horse race associated the BSI. While Wayne himself was the historian behind the Annual, he noted in his Acknowledgements:
"Overall, my wife, Francine Swift, the real Swift family authority on horses as animals, has been a central bulwark throughout the effort."When Wayne passed away suddenly following the BSI Weekend in 2001, we remember how difficult it was for Francine. The following year, as we manned the table in the vendors' room, she came by the stacks of BSJ Christmas Annuals new and old and lovingly passed her fingers over Wayne's contribution. We could see the tears welling up in her eyes and her lip began to quiver before she quickly moved away. Clearly, Francine had lost the great love of her life.
Francine continued in her own right in the Sherlockian world, contributing to the Baker Street Journal from time to time, but in the end, it seemed as if her heart wasn't in it quite the same. I recently received a number of orders from her for the BSI's Manuscript Series and International Series, so I inferred that she was getting back into the game in full force.
It is my sincerest hope that she and Wayne are together again, eternally blissful and at peace.
If you have any personal memories of Francine, or if you can fill in any relevant details about her life, we invite you to share them in a comment below.
Photo credit: Dorothy Stix