Roma Kotch (Laurie Purden)

30th September 1928 - 31st August 2022

On Wednesday 8th February, 2023 at 11:30am a service of thanksgiving for the life of Roma Laurette Kotch (Laurie Purden) was held at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street.
Download Order of Service (pdf)


The Revd Steve Morris, Associate Priest of St Bride’s, delivered the opening welcome.


Macy Fyles-Kotch and Simon Hunter

Simon Hunter said: ‘Laurie’…. I am blessed and honoured to have known you for 35 years.

The same time I have known your daughter Sophie ironically, so I wander if it wasn’t some magnificent act of fate or some gorgeous duplicitous union that brought us together.

But behind this timescale hides a truth for me; that I had wished for more.

Even as I walk past your flat these days, I actually start talking to you.

I am at the age that Laurie was when we first met, and I pale by comparison to what she had already achieved.

Simply put; an Act you wouldn’t ever want to follow, but a character by which you measure measure, and a constant for us.

In more private counsel she would always bring a practical insight to an issue one was facing. Her knack of providing the right word and phrase, often with lightness and humour, for any situation brought comfort and calm and belied that incredible brain she possessed.

And the personal anecdote complete there was always a big hug.

This genuine service she offered to everyone and most of all to her adoring family. With no barrier from age ; Grand Children and Grown-Ups were easily recruited through her effortless charm and
she got it down !

There is a bravery and selflessness to take positions that others may not want to hear. So, when discussing topics of a broader context she would invariably support an argument that left you convinced and with the comfort that it was her knowledge that had been brought to bear.

Her interest in people was extraordinary and an especially rare talent I now understand, when balancing family and career.

A lot of us, myself very much included, think like we are on our own when the cards are poor. She however would continue turning them in a metronomic fashion until something brighter appeared.
And it wasn’t just cards she was particularly adroit at for it was the breadth, the detail and the memory that went with.

We loved that immortal line “Oh Dear, I think you might be mistaken” as she checked the pontificator on some other worldly error they had included within their story.

As it was Her memory served her well and the exactitude it brought, often with comedic and natural timing was really with her to the last.

As her family we are left empty and in space, without matter or atmosphere and we must find the ways she stays within us.

Material effects may have a place, but the personal memories are absolutely what counts. Here is the place to gather those memories and to share between us.

This of course is exactly how we get the MORE we so dearly wanted.

There are I believe four requirements for a fulfilled life: to Live, to Love, to Learn, to leave a Legacy.

To do so in a balanced way requires vision, the passion, and a spirit for life; Something of a full hand.

Laurie, I always knew you had ALL the cards.

Ned Hunter

Roma Laurette Kotch, Laurie, Mum, Mummy, Grannie, Grannie London, ‘Aroma’, and so forth – it’s difficult to know where to begin with something like this, considering how many roles she played in the many lives that she touched.

It was Grannie to me, and that is something that I will always hold dear. Born in 1928 to Constance Mary and George Arnold Cecil, it’s impossible to fathom her child and teenage-hood over a world war with her sister Monica, 8 years her senior, going off to help the efforts and having her formal education cut short at around age 12 to 13, to one of our own. I believe it is incontestable to deny that such events won’t have contributed to her becoming an incredibly strong, resilient woman and it is that which I have always admired about her.

Writing short stories in her lunchtime and attaining 95% in her literature exams at the age of 12, her affinity for words started at a young age. She then went on to work at magazines including Good Housekeeping in 1965, becoming Editor in Chief in ’73, and Woman’s Journal from 1978-1988. It was whilst working at Good Housekeeping when she received an MBE in 1973, a fact I was always eager to show off to my friends as a child. It clearly bought great pride to herself, her family and her peers at work, shown in this quote from ‘Is This Your Life’, a book given to Laurie after her departure from Good House-Keeping which I shall share with you now. “Receiving the MBE didn’t affect Laurie one little bit, and a memo went out to all staff instructing them on how they should conduct themselves in future.” Said memo read, “Instructions for staff entering Laurie Purden’s office: 1. When entering LP MBE’s office, hats should be doffed and knees should be on the ground with feet at an approximate 45 degree angle. 2. Do not enter until knock is answered with the words ‘Laurie Purden MBE will receive you now’”. Signed off from Laurie Purden herself.

Let’s also not forget that this was all at the same time as raising her two beloved children, Emma and Sophie, with her late husband Keith Kotch whom she married on the 26th June 1957, Laurie aged 28 and Keith, aged 37. A seemingly larger age gap to us nowadays, and perhaps explains why Grannie always encouraged me to date much older men, much to mums dismay. What this marriage also brought into all our lives was a treasured extended family, with Keith’s children Nick and Sara and their mother, Ann.

Perhaps it could be argued that domestic duties for women aren’t held in as high regard nowadays as they once were, however Laurie’s ability to balance the domestic and professional responsibilities required of her during the 60s is quite remarkable. In an article titled ‘The Purden Philosophy’ she even stated herself that she sees her readers of Woman’s Journal as, and I quote, “intelligent, the kind of woman who enjoys being female, not the militantly liberated variety…both interested in the things they do but also there’s no limits to the other interests in their lives.” It is perhaps these experiences that helped her be so successful, both in her job by understanding her readership and the vastly evolving place of women within society with pin-point precision, as well as in her private life, as such an influential female role model to her two daughters, and to the rest of her family.

I think we can all agree that Laurie was a classy and elegant lady right until the very end. Her laugh was utterly infectious and she took the time to make sure the people around her knew she would always be there for them, whether as an ear to chew off, a shoulder to cry on and anything in between.

She was an incredible matriarch. She made sure the people she loved knew how proud she was of them, particularly felt by her grandchildren, Ned, Betsy and I. She encouraged all to strive for their absolute best, because in her eyes, that was enough.

I know that many will miss her warm and inviting nature. I hope she is at peace and having a well deserved rest after the extraordinary life she led. Perhaps, enjoying a cup of tea, with powdered milk of course, with our late Majesty.

Grannie, I will always love you and thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for everything.

Eden Phillips and Andrew Wheatley

Eden began: Today is a special day for everyone here who knew Laurie. And there is surely nowhere better for us to gather than in this lovely church, to pay tribute to a remarkable person.

To introduce myself: my name is Eden Phillips and I was lucky enough to work with, and for, Laurie at IPC during the early 1980s. At that time she was at the pinnacle of her career. Having started as a secretary on Woman’s Own, she had risen rapidly, working on the magazines Vanity Fair and House Beautiful before becoming editor of Good Housekeeping. When I first met her, she was editorial director of Woman’s Journal, also inhering Woman and Home. On Journal, as we called it, long before men’s magazines – I’m not talking about top shelf stuff – I mean the likes of the UK edition of GQ – Laurie saw the need for a ‘Men’s page’ in her magazine, and appointed me as its editor, a role for which I was singularly ill-qualified. Being as shrewd as she always was, I’m sure she knew this. I think she thought it would be more ‘fun’ to have someone floundering through male experiences in a woman’s world than to employ an ‘expert’ in men’s fashion and men’s products – not that there were many of those in those days – experts or products. Anyway, an expert I was not. But with Laurie’s guidance I managed to file a Men’s page column of some kind every month for five or six years.

I use the word ‘guidance’ advisedly. Although she made sure that everyone on the magazine felt they had a free hand, there were ‘rules.’ They were unwritten rules and it was up to us to pick them up as we went along. There was nothing stuffy about this, they were based on Laurie’s unerring instinct for what her readers wanted and what they would accept. To take an example, she would not let me go to press describing perfectly accurately the wording on a new men’s stick deodorant I’d been sent to review. The manufacturers’ instructions for use, printed on the side of the product read, ‘Remove cap and push up bottom.’ She may have found this funny herself but something told her – quite correctly – that this wasn’t quite Woman’s Journal style.

And when it came to style, Laurie had bags of it. And when it came to meeting readers, which she did every year at the magazine’s fashion show at the Savoy, you could tell they had come to meet a friend who would never let them down, and an editor who might surprise them but would never dream of shocking them. In other words, there was ‘trust’ between them – which was why Laurie took Woman’s Journal’s circulation to heights it had never reached before and never achieved again after she left.

Behind the scenes, she commanded respect from her staff. It only bordered on fear if she suspected – or you knew – you hadn’t done your homework. There was perhaps just the slightest nervousness at editorial meetings as she leafed through the pages of the dummy issue – that’s to say prototype layouts pasted into a folder – and commented. As she turned the pages with one hand, a slim cigarette held high in the other, each of us waited for the rhetorical question: “Do we love it, darling?”

Laurie was truly the doyenne of editors at IPC in those days – the doyenne indeed of all women’s magazine editors – so it was natural that IPC’s publishers asked her and Woman’s Journal to play host when the frightening but still reasonably respectable tycoon Robert Maxwell came to visit. Huge, and with that sonorous voice he seemed deliberately intimidating but Laurie was completely unfazed. Whether he liked it or not Maxwell was going to say hello to all of us and he jolly well had to show an interest in the dummy layouts. By sheer force of personality, she got him to do everything short of saying, “Do we love it darling?”

Not only did Maxwell’s visit result in an invitation to a party at his country residence, Headington Hill Hall, but Laurie asked me to go with her. Or rather to drive her there. Completely unsnobbish, she brushed aside my worries about her being seen getting out of my battered fifteen year-old Triumph Herald and she alighted elegantly among the surrounding limousines. We were duly summoned to say hello to the old rogue, who sat at a table making awkward small talk. After a minute or two she and I felt gentle pressure on our shoulders from the minders standing behind us, and we were released. Later on, Maxwell stood on the terrace and addressed the guests gathered in the garden below, for all the world like a 1980s version of Mussolini.

Magazine people, rather like actors, bond intensely while they are working together, but often drift apart as time passes and other jobs come along. That never happened with Laurie. She was an intensely loyal friend to me and many others. Her gift for friendship was based on her deep interest in other people and what they were doing, what they were watching, what they were thinking. Every time we met, usually over lunch at a restaurant near her flat with our mutual friend Richard Barber, it was a bit like being gently interviewed. But in a very nice way by a wonderful journalist who had become a very dear friend. She was completely unlike anyone else I have ever met. She is truly irreplaceable in my life, and in the lives of her family and the lives of everyone here today. May God bless her memory. I know he will.

Andrew continued: With a panoramic view of horizontal sky, sea and shingle beach at Sandgate, we nestled snuggly in a pale blue washed terraced house last summer, in the cherished company of Simon, Sophie and Laurie.

Laurie had retreated to this beachside haven for decades.

Laurie’s vision was now a mental one, that of acute visual memory as she had all but lost her sight. For a weekend my wife and I asked myriad questions and we folded ourselves comfortably into Laurie’s fond reminiscences.

Elegant in a reclining chair, Laurie chatted about London, art, books, music and friends from her past all set to Frank Sinatra’s Fly Me to the Moon on repeat.

As a pioneering female editor in chief, Laurie hosted an annual publisher’s dinner at the Dorchester Hotel. Each year there was a surprise guest speaker. For one such dinner, sometime in the 70’s, Laurie prepared her introduction swatting up on the celebrity actor, his run of films in chronological order and so on… The evening came, champagne flowing, diners at set tables in carpeted grandeur – a cocktail of newspaper journalists photographers, editors, their wives, and the captains of her own industry – in other words, the magazine publishing glitterati of the time.

Laurie took to the stage, the chattering of voices and cutlery calmed as she leant into the microphone with excited anticipation.

‘Ladies and Gentleman we are extremely honoured to have one of our country’s leading and most talented young actors, known to you all on the silver screen, please put your hands together and offer a warm welcome to Kirk Douglas’.

Dirk Bogarde briskly walked from the wings on to the stage. Here he stood in the full glare of his own fame and Laurie’s instant infamy.

Laurie choked. Her next quick breath conjured the right name for the right man – an edit, possibly the most important one of her entire career, did not help. Nor could she make light of the gaff. It was too late, the verbal magic of rearranging the letters K I R K to D I R K could not save the day. The blunder was spectacular. Laurie told me she was ‘mortified’.

The annual dinner passed into painful memory for Laurie but it took some months of ego-bruising to fully recover.

Months later, in the fashionable London neighbourhood where Laurie lived, she spotted Dirk Bogarde in a local grocer. She told herself that if their eyes should meet in mutual recognition she would raise the incident and apologise in person. They did bump into each other. She reminded Dirk who she was, the event at the Dorchester and her embarrassment.

Dirk charmingly responded by calmly telling her he was ‘a bit out of it that night’ and he hadn’t actually heard her Kirk Douglas blunder. His publicist had relayed it to him after the fact.

As you would imagine, Dirk was courteous, unaffected and without pomposity. She clearly delighted in regaling me with this story. I thought it wonderful.


Sophie Kotch read John 14: 1-6

Jesus said to his disciples: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Rose Soma read The song of the Primrose Fairy by Cicely Mary Barker

The Primrose opens wide in spring;
her scent is sweet and good:
it smells of every happy thing
in sunny lane and wood.
I have not half the skill to sing
and praise her as I should.

She’s dear to folk throughout the land;
in her is nothing mean:
she freely spreads on every hand
her petals pale and clean.
And though she’s neither proud nor grand,
she is the Country Queen.

Roland Klein read Le train de ma vie by Jean D’Ormesson

À la naissance, on monte dans le train et on rencontre nos parents.

Et on croit qu’ils voyageront toujours avec nous.
Pourtant, à une station, nos parents descendront du train, nous laissant seuls continuer le voyage…

Au fur et à mesure que le temps passe, d’autres personnes montent dans le train.

Et elles seront importantes : notre fratrie, nos amis, nos enfants, même l’amour de notre vie.

Beaucoup démissionneront (même éventuellement l’amour de notre vie), et laisseront un vide plus ou moins grand.

D’autres seront si discrets qu’on ne réalisera pas qu’ils ont quitté leurs sièges.

Ce voyage en train sera plein de joies, de peines, d’attentes, de bonjours, d’aurevoirs et d’adieux.

Le succès est d’avoir de bonnes relations avec tous les passagers pourvu qu’on donne le meilleur de nous-mêmes.

On ne sait pas à quelle station nous descendrons, donc vivons heureux, aimons et pardonnons.

Il est important de le faire car lorsque nous descendrons du train, nous ne devrons laisser que de beaux souvenirs à ceux qui continueront leur voyage.

Soyons heureux avec ce que nous avons et remercions le ciel de ce voyage fantastique.

Aussi, merci d’être un des passagers de mon train.

Et si je dois descendre à la prochaine station, je suis content d’avoir fait un bout de chemin avec vous.

Je veux dire à chaque personne qui lira ce texte que je vous remercie d’être dans ma vie et de voyager dans mon train.


The choir & organist of St Bride’s and members of the Band of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Warwickshire performed the following anthems and songs:

God be in my head – Henry Walford Davies
And I saw a new Heaven – Edgar Bainton
How lovely are thy dwellings fair – Johannes Brahms
O happy day – Edwin Hawkins arr. Teena Chinn
Fly me to the moon – Bart Howard arr. Robert Jones
In the mood – Glenn Miller


All things bright and beautiful
Dear Lord and Father of mankind
Praise, my soul, the King of heaven

Roma Kotch
congregation sitting for service


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