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Pioneer of freedom

James MacDonald, by email

I knew Keith Armstrong [whose obituary was in PN 2610–2611] at Hephaistos School in 1965–1966. Hephaistos was more family than school, and even though I was there for only a year, Keith and I were quite fraternal, because we both wrote. He published one of my book reviews in the earliest version of his magazine, and we had a spirited discussion about In Cold Blood, which had just appeared in print.

Eighteen months older, I completed my education with a doctorate in drama and secured a low-paying job writing plays for undergraduate drama students. Keith’s life was harder, and he earned more from his poetry. In 1984, he attended a performance of one of my plays in London.

Many of the Hephaistos alumni didn’t survive into adulthood. Among those who did, Keith had the hardest life of all. Most able-bodied people, faced with Keith’s prospects, would decide that death would be preferable. He manifestly didn’t agree, as your obituary makes clear. His example makes one long for an afterlife where such anomalies can be redressed.

Even if there isn’t an afterlife, conditions for people with disabilities are bound to improve. With any justice, future generations will recognise Keith Armstrong as a pioneer for the freedoms they enjoy.

He deserved to have lived longer.