June Dixon-Millar, who died on Monday, 7th November 2016, aged 81, was a visionary who could see that Cued Speech had the potential to transform the way in which deaf babies and children learned and were taught. She was the first teacher to use Cued Speech in the UK and was the founder of the Cued Speech Association UK (formerly The National Centre for Cued Speech).
‘There is no doubt that June’s is a tremendous legacy. There are people whose use of Cued Speech has helped them realise their potential – directly through June’s teaching, or indirectly through her work to develop Cued Speech into other languages. For this alone, it was a privilege to have known her.’ Andrew Garratt
June’s legacy included a comprehensive set of teaching materials, film archives, and the tireless promotion of Cued Speech both in the UK and to other countries where she helped others establish national Cued Speech organisations. June was also a skilled Cued Speech Transliterator and was ready to transliterate for deaf people UK-wide.
‘Anyone who met June could not fail to be impressed by her commitment and passion for all that Cued Speech offers to deaf children and their families. I think she was unmatched in her diligence and seemingly inexhaustible creativity when it came to generating teaching materials. I imagine she and Dr Cornett as a formidable team in heaven watching over us as we continue to fight for deaf children’s access to spoken language through Cued Speech!’ Cate Calder
‘She had a great strength and permanence about her, and was, quite simply, unforgettable. I hope to continue being a credit to her good work, and that whatever I do, she would have been among the first to express how proud she was of me.’ Daniel Milford-Cottam
One of her passions was music and in March 1990 the Cued Speech Choir cued the alto line of Handel’s Messiah in Canterbury Cathedral, alongside Christ Church College choir. She said that the ‘video of this has inspired a number of people to cue at home and abroad’. Cued Speech is sound-based, and so requires adaptations for different languages and, together with Dr Cornett, who devised Cued Speech, June adapted Cued Speech into 12 languages, including Welsh.
‘Not only did she bring Cued Speech to Britain - and so many families like mine owe her an enormous debt of gratitude for that – but for many years she embodied it, including during periods that were personally very tough for her. She was indeed a pioneer, and Chris’s support alongside her has also been crucial.’ Win Burton
In a 2009 article for the Cued Speech Association UK Newsletter about her history with Cued Speech June wrote,
‘I have been fascinated by speech and language as long as I can remember. I grew up in the cosmopolitan island of Trinidad where I heard nine different languages and saw different cultures around me. I was then sent to a boarding school in England where from the age of 13 we had to speak French all day. Periodically deafness crossed my path. After training at Homerton College and then the Department of Education for the Deaf at Manchester University I taught deaf children at a school for the deaf and was teacher-in-charge at a partially hearing unit. At the same time I also taught deaf adults for three evenings each week at the City Lit Institute for the Deaf in London. In 1969, when I had a young family of my own, Winifred Tumim (later Lady Tumim) asked me to teach her profoundly deaf daughter Emma privately for four mornings a week. In 1970 she asked me if I would consider using Cued Speech. As a lack of clear communication had slowed all my teaching I jumped at it. I also taught Anthony Jefferson and Alistair Adamson. Winifred went to America and spent a week with Dr Orin Cornett, the devisor of Cued Speech, and adapted it to British English. I spent two one-hour sessions with her and learned to cue in 20 hours from an audio cassette recording. Sadly Winifred died in November 2009 and those who use Cued Speech owe much to her vision. I taught my three pupils to cue with ease and their vocabulary growth, language, reading and writing skills progressed remarkably as lipreading instruction and language became clear and frustration virtually vanished.’
Inspired by the unprecedented successes of her pupils, in 1975 June ‘sought help to establish a national centre for Cued Speech so that it could be made available to any families with deaf children, the adult deaf and professionals.’
‘It was supported for three formative years by the charity KIDS. The Centre introduced Cued Speech to 39 counties in the UK, ran a national Cued Speech conference, a residential course and developed a Cue Club. I ran courses, lectured to various societies, institutes, hospitals, universities, polytechnics and educational authorities. I raised a question in the House of Commons on the reading ages of deaf children. In 1978 the Centre became independent, as originally intended, and became The National Centre for Cued Speech until 2001 when it became the Cued Speech Association UK.’
‘June’s vision, and her drive and tenacity on behalf of others was awe-inspiring. She never lost sight of the end goal: the deaf baby, child, or adult who could benefit from Cued Speech and the need to get Cued Speech to them wherever they might be in the world.’ Anne Worsfold:
June continued as the Director of the National Centre for Cued Speech until 1999 but, as she wrote:
‘Since then I have continued to teach, write articles, give presentations, transliterate for a deaf lady in French and English on her French FE course and made supplementary material in French to accompany the course textbook, act as an adviser on Cued Speech to users both at home and abroad and to adapt Cued Speech for use with various languages. My husband, Chris, has been a tirelessly active assistant throughout; he chaired the Management Committee meetings for several years and was the company secretary from 2001 to 2009.’
‘During the ten years I worked at the Cued Speech office in Canterbury I was able, at close hand, to observe June's dedication to and enthusiasm for the life changing communication method for hearing and impaired children and adults, which she had the vision, energy and dedication to establish in the UK.
‘As a hands-on Director (as well as Trustee) of the charity for its first twenty years, June was an inspiring and energetic leader who set and expected high standards and was extremely effective in sharing her commitment to Cued Speech with staff, trustees, volunteers, other professionals and prospective funders. By any standard her lifetime achievements were awesome. I greatly enjoyed working with her." Peter Allen.
June was the recipient of a ‘Cueing Pioneer’ from the American National Cued Speech Association (NCSA), and, in 2006 was given life membership of the NCSA.
‘I think I'll always be grateful to June for her initial belief in the power of Cued Speech and if we can to cue today, it is because we are standing on the shoulders of a giant.’ Nicholas Orpin
June and Chris remained members of the Management Committee, and both had very active and independent roles until they retired in 2009, but continued as members and took an active and passionate interest in Cued Speech.
On their retirement the CSAUK Chairman, Andrew Garratt, presented June and Chris with an engraved glass crystal paper weight as a mark of members’ appreciation of their work.
‘She will leave a big gap – but has left a great milestone. And we owe it to her memory to do even more to ensure that Cued Speech is something every child diagnosed deaf in Britain has the chance of benefitting from.’ Win Burton
After retirement June had more time for her hobbies of reading, singing in a choir, painting, geology and Egyptology and travel and more time for her family.
Sheila Skillings has penned the following:
June will be greatly missed as an inspired, passionate and generous colleague and friend.
Never to be forgotten
Not to be denied
Remembered with gratitude
She leaves her husband Chris Millar, who was a very great help to the Cued Speech Association UK, sons Paul and John, daughter-in-law Angela and grandchildren.
June’s funeral (Win Burton writes) was held in the crypt (Chapel of Our Lady Undercroft) of Canterbury Cathedral, where she and Chris were married and where they have worshipped latterly, on 29th November. All her family were there alongside Chris, and the photograph display on show at the reception afterwards testified beautifully to how important a part of her life children and grandchildren have been. Her two surviving sons – John and Paul – spoke of their “mum” and of the richness and breadth of her interests and readiness to involve herself in all kinds of fun and activities. When Andrew Garrett (former CSAUK Chair) and I went to talk to Chris at the reception, he said he felt he had only known the “tip of the iceberg” that was June – to which Chris responded, “you mean the tip of the volcano!”.
The address was given by the Very Reverend Dr John Simpson OBE who is the CSAUK’s patron, and he spoke eloquently of the vital importance of Cued Speech to facilitate communication with deaf children and to bring them out of the isolation which deafness can mean in a hearing family. He said it was rare that someone had left a “living memorial”: that was what June has done in introducing Cued Speech into the UK. Andrew, Paul-Michael Coldham (and his family) and I felt proud to be there as part of this ongoing legacy in a very touching service with a big crowd of family and friends, in a very beautiful final setting.
A Service of Thanksgiving for June’s life and work will be held on the 25th February at the Parish Church of St Mary, Barnes – a place that played a considerable part in the lives of June and Roger (her first husband) and their boys John, Paul and Matthew.
Colleagues' and friends' tributes in full, Click here.