PAIN, Nesta  [1905 -1995]

Nesta Pain was a multi-talented woman who left Liverpool for London in the middle of the war in 1942 and became one of the BBC Radio’s outstanding writer-directors.

She was born Florence Nesta Kathleen on 27th July 1905, the daughter of shipowner and broker Harold Taylor, the family home being 6 Normanton Avenue L17. The Taylor family was well-established in Liverpool life, her grandfather being an archdeacon and her uncle, Sir Francis Kyffin Taylor (later Lord Maenan) was presiding judge of the court of passage.

She was educated at West Heath School, Liverpool and Liverpool University where she took a first-class honours degree in classics. Her all-round prowess was well-illustrated by her playing lacrosse at county level. She then went to Somerville College, Oxford, to study for a doctorate in comparative philology. However, she abandoned the world of academia after marrying Coade Henry Paine, a surveyor, in 1926, and concentrating on the care of the child Angela. After the marriage they lived briefly at 21 Arundel Avenue L17 (now demolished) before moving to Birkenhead. Her lively mind required much more stimulation than the role of housewife could provide and she became closely involved with the Liverpool Playhouse and wrote two plays.

In 1942, having separated from her husband a year earlier, she left Liverpool for London with her daughter and on 9th February that year joined the BBC. Her early work often centred upon scientific themes, notably the programmes Insect Invader (in illness caused by tsetse flies) and War Against Disease (on sleeping sickness). Her work brought her into contact with leading scientists of the age, notably Sir Alexander Fleming and the plastic surgery pioneer Sir Archibald McIndoe.

In her long career with BBC her work covered many subjects and genres. She was personally responsible for persuading John Mortimer to write his first play for radio, Dock Brief. In his memoirs, Mortimer referred to Pain as a remarkable woman who “talked precisely, but with a slight stammer, and seemed like an enlightened, extremely intelligent headmistress”. She also published books on slimming, Louis Pasteur, insects, the Empress Matilda and George III.

She died on 23rd July 1995, four days before her 90th birthday.


6 Normanton Avenue L17

The Taylor family home at the time of Nesta's birth in 1905.


There is an extensive biography of Nesta Pain at the Oxford Dictionary of National BiographyAlso worth reading is the obituary in The Independent. There is a brief entry in Wikipedia.