Ballyvoy woman was Bletchley translator

Kathleen Cuthbert. INNT 48-730-CON
Kathleen Cuthbert. INNT 48-730-CON

The daughter of a “gentleman farmer” and a former resident of Ballyvoy estate in Doagh has passed away at the age of 96-years-old.

Kathleen Cuthbert spent her early years at the East Antrim family home before moving to the north west to be educated.

Mrs Cuthbert, daughter of James Milliken Ferguson and his wife Sara, was a talented linguist and fluent German speaker.

She was head-hunted as a translator for Bletchley Park, in 1942, following her graduation from Queen’s University, Belfast.

Bletchley Park was the top secret wartime government department that broke the allegedly unbreakable German High Command Enigma Code, which is said to have changed the course of World War II.

Recently, a family member researching Bletchley Park discovered that she had also taken a course in Japanese while there, so amongst the hectic and demanding war-time translating work, Kathleen still found time to study and learn new things.

At the end of the war, Kathleen, as required by her degree, went to Bernaville in northern France on an exchange visit for practical experience in the language.

She went on to become a tutor in the French department at QUB and also worked with Citizens’ Advice Bureau.

With her husband Norman, she travelled widely and she always took the trouble to get at least a smattering of new languages, even managing to get a fresh supply of tablets from a Russian hospital.

Kathleen read to friends who were blind and to a colleague, Professor Alan Milne, who as a paratrooper had been blinded in the Second World War at Arheim.

She was also an accomplished and adventurous cook who could whip up a meal for 20 in half an hour and for some time during the 1960s and under a male pseudonym, she wrote a recipe column and reviewed cookery books for the Belfast Telegraph.

In 1968, Kathleen and Norman went to Malta for two years where Norman was Professor of Economics at the Royal University of Malta, She delighted in learning the Maltese language and exploring the islands.

In 1991 she was widowed. She then became an Advanced Motorist. She learned how to use a computer with great success, she was a whiz on the internet.

In 2010, Kathleen decided that she should move to Bristol in order to be nearer to her immediate family, and since then had the pleasure of three great granddaughters and a grandson.

On her 96th birthday, only six weeks ago, she was still able to blow out the candles on her cake and knock back a glass of sparkling wine.

She is survived by her daughter, her granddaughter and grandson and four great grandchildren.