Vivien John (8 March 1915 – 20 May 1994)
Dylan Thomas's signature
The younger of Augustus John’s daughters by Dorelia McNeill, Vivien and her sister Poppet had a truly bohemian childhood. Unlike their brothers and half brothers they were not sent to school and were allowed to run free. They grew up in Hampshire, at Alderney Manor and then Fryern Court, near Fordingbridge, and both homes were usually full of artists and writers. Vivien was often painted by her father, and also by the artist Henry Lamb.
Vivien forged a close friendship with Caitlin Macnamara in her teens, when the two girls were living very close to each other. They ran away from their Bournemouth boarding school together to London, where Vivien had arranged an audition with a friend of her father’s, the theatre impressario C B Cochran, who was famous for his group of high-kicking girls. Although they were forced to return to school, they were eventually allowed to go to a dancing school in London where they were offered sporadic work in cabaret and pantomime.
In 1927 Vivien and Caitlin effectively became cousins when Caitlin’s father, Francis Macnamara, married Edie McNeill, Dorelia’s sister. Vivien became a sculptor and artist of some note, and by coincidence died in the same year as Caitlin.