Crozier, (Rose Mary) Maurna (1942–2015), social anthropologist, was born in Belfast on 22 January 1942, the only surviving child of Robert Frizzell, the first general manager of the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB), and his wife Molly (née Rands), a rosarian and the daughter of actors who had moved to Belfast in 1911. Crozier’s upbringing had a significant influence on her later life: both her parents had trained as teachers and were socially minded and sociable, with a wide and diverse circle of friends. During the second world war, being medically unfit for active duty, Robert Frizzell collected materials such as clothing, fabric and paper to help with the war effort, while Molly Frizzell brought the infant Maurna around Northern Ireland in a little van, teaching people how to make do with their rations. Although Crozier longed for siblings, she remained an only child and this, combined with her natural curiosity and parents’ sociability, prompted her profound interest in other people. She was especially close to the children next door and the friendships she made in early childhood endured throughout her adult life. In his NITB role, her father travelled throughout Ireland, so the young Crozier was introduced to a great deal of the country and its people. Summer holidays were spent either with her paternal grandparents in Portstewart, Co. Derry, or in Co. Donegal, but she also spent more time than she would have liked on golf courses – her father was a talented amateur golfer and, as an adult, she tried to avoid the game.
Crozier excelled in school. She first attended Richmond Lodge school on Malone Road, Belfast, and then Wycombe Abbey boarding school in Buckinghamshire, England. At the age of eighteen she began a Bachelor of Arts degree (English) at Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). However, she abandoned her studies in her second year when she became reacquainted with Julian Crozier, whom she had known from a young age. Julian’s father Douglas had been friends with Robert Frizzell from their college years at QUB, and Robert was Julian’s godfather. When Julian was sent ‘home’ from Hong Kong to receive his secondary education, he had stayed with the Frizzells so he could attend Campbell College as a day student. Following an undergraduate degree at Cambridge, Julian entered the British colonial service, working in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) but he resumed his friendship with the Frizzells when he visited to Ireland on furlough, and more especially with Crozier. When he returned to Zambia, she went with him.
Crozier’s four years in Zambia were formative. She was younger than the white Zambians she found herself among – she celebrated her twentieth birthday on the boat from Southampton to Cape Town – but she was pressurised by Julian’s colleagues not to become friends with black Zambians of a similar age. Although enthralled by the local culture and landscapes, she was miserably lonely, especially when Julian went on long tours as part of his job as district officer. She missed her family and friends in Ireland and was appalled by the racism she encountered; her experience in Zambia made her determinedly anti-racist, feminist and conservationist. The couple were first based in the capital, Lusaka, and then Monze in Zambia’s southern province, about 180 km west of Lusaka. She taught English and classics in a local school, and also taught local women, sending requests home to Belfast for appropriate books to be sent out.
In 1964 the Croziers returned to Northern Ireland, driving back in a little grey minivan via Jerusalem. Maurna Crozier resumed her studies in QUB, where she was part of a circle that included writers Seamus Heaney (qv) and Michael and Edna Longley. After graduating, she worked sporadically for Ulster Television (UTV) and the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) – she presented a programme called Crossroads (not to be confused with the long-running soap opera of the same name) for the former, and made a series of documentaries for BBC Radio Ulster, including one on traditional healing. Prompted by a thirst for knowledge following a period of child-rearing and restoring a farmhouse in pursuit of her long-standing interest in historic buildings, in the early 1980s she returned to QUB, to the Institute of Irish Studies, to undertake a doctorate (Ph.D.) in social anthropology. The subject of her thesis was ‘Patterns of hospitality in a rural Ulster community’ for which she was awarded her degree in 1985. After graduation she started work in the Institute where, according to Professor Duncan Morrow, she and her colleagues in the Cultural Diversity Group drove ‘a new public culture of pluralism which both acknowledged and vindicated the many faces of the North, but also sought ways to bring them into dialogue with each other’ (Irish Times, 21 Feb. 2015). When the Community Relations Council was established in 1990, Crozier was appointed as its first programme director with responsibility for cultural diversity. Under her guidance a wide variety of projects (encompassing films, books, touring exhibitions, festivals and community projects) were produced, including Derry’s ‘Different drums’ initiative, which brought Lambeg drummers from the Orange Order together with traditional Irish bodhrán players, and the publication of An Ulster wean’s A-Z aimed at promoting reconciliation and appreciation of cultural diversity among young people. She also organised two conferences in the late 1980s and early 1990s on the themes of varieties of Irishness and Britishness in Northern Irish traditions, which resulted in the publication of two important books: Varieties of Irishness: proceedings of the Cultural Traditions Group conference (1989) which she co-edited with Roy Foster, and Varieties of Britishness: cultural traditions in Northern Ireland (1990). These were followed in 1998 by a book on the European aspects of Northern Ireland’s traditions entitled Cultural diversity in contemporary Europe (1998), co-edited with Richard Froggatt, and What made now in Northern Ireland (2008). Speaking at the launch of an exhibition in Cavan County Museum in July 1998, Crozier summed up the purpose of her work, both academically and in the community. Titled ‘Flags, banners and sashes with the Blue Cavan Flashes’, the exhibition was held in recognition of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Irish National Foresters, the Orange Order and the Royal Black Preceptory. Its aim, according to Crozier, was not to obliterate differences but to help people to understand and appreciate them. ‘If in Ireland, north and south, we were all champions not only of our own views but of other people’s views, then I think we could face the next century with enormous confidence’ (Anglo-Celt, 9 July 1998).
Crozier’s commitment to improving cultural and community life for the whole of Northern Ireland was central to her identity, and she served on numerous boards and committees with that goal: in 1998 she was appointed as the first woman president of Belfast’s Linen Hall Library and oversaw its £3 million extension to house its Northern Irish political literature section. Coming in the aftermath of the Good Friday Agreement, signed on 10 April, Crozier spoke of her appointment as signalling ‘a new spirit of hope and openness in the province’ (Belfast Telegraph, 6 June 1998). In addition, she sat on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (2000–03), the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council, the Northern Ireland Committee of the BBC, National Museums Northern Ireland, the Ulster Historical Foundation and the Tyrone Guthrie Centre to name but a few. She also led diversity and inclusion projects that sought to recognise other ethnicities in Northern Ireland: for example, in 2005 the Community Relations Council commissioned a series of short documentaries for UTV titled A sense of belonging. Crozier believed the series, examining as it did inward immigration into Northern Ireland, created an opportunity to recognise and celebrate the contributions ethnic minorities made to life in Northern Ireland.
Maurna Crozier died on 2 January 2015 and was buried at home, following a funeral service in St Mellan’s Church of Ireland, Loughbrickland, Co. Down. She was predeceased by her husband, Julian, and survived by her two sons, Daniel and Matthew, and her daughter Briony. Speaking after her death, historian Jonathan Bardon said Crozier had shown an unrivalled ability to find out those people who were making a difference. Described in an obituary as an ‘understated figure in social reconciliation’, Crozier was disinterested in self-promotion but was nonetheless widely known, with an aptitude for forming bonds that enabled her to make an immense contribution to cultural and societal changes in Northern Ireland as she strived at all times to bring diverse communities together (Irish Times, 15 Feb. 2015). In recognition of her lifelong commitment to the cultural life of Northern Ireland, the Friends of the F. E. McWilliam Gallery and Studio, of which she was a founder member, established the annual Maurna Crozier Memorial Bursary in 2017.