Gillian Boughton is a St John's College Visiting Fellow in Literature and Christianity. She teaches in the Durham Department of Theology and Religion as an Honorary Fellow there, directing the MA module Literature and Religion.
Gillian was a Resident Tutor at St John's from 1983 - 1985 when studying for a Durham M Litt (later commuted into a PhD). She was elected Staff Representative on the St John's College Council from 1988 until 2000. She worked in St John’s College as Assistant and then Acting Senior Tutor from 1994 until 2000 alongside teaching in the Department of English Studies, completing her PhD in Durham in 1995: a diplomatic and critical edition of six unpublished 1860s MSS narratives by Mary Arnold, niece of Matthew Arnold the poet and critic, later Mrs Humphry Ward (1851- 1920).
These manuscrupt stories were written when Mary Arnold was in her teens, and inspired an interest in literary juvenilia more widely. Gillian became a founder member of the International Society for Literary Juvenilia and organised three of the current total of six international conferences in Durham, the most recent, in St John’s College in July 2018.
Mrs Humphry Ward's most celebrated novel, Robert Elsmere (1888), concerns an Oxford educated clergyman married to an evangelical wife. His intellectual ventures into Biblical Criticism break the marriage and drive him out of anglican holy orders. This debate is engaged in the context of early Modernist theology and the novel occupies a key moment in English literary history.
Her more recent writing related to the Department of Theology teaching and interests have concerned the poetry of Stevie Smith and Elizabeth Jennings.
From 2000 until December 2013 she held the post of Vice-Principal and, as interregnum, Acting Principal of St Mary's College. This was for her immensely creative, at times strategic and essentially pastoral work. Her time as Colleges division University link with the Durham Afghan Scholarship scheme, taking pastoral responsibility for the participants: fourteen young women over four years who came to Durham from the University of Kabul from 2009, initially to St Mary's, to study for the MA of their choice, was particularly special: she worked tirelessly to establish the women's wing as a provision for faith and cultural diversity at St Mary's College when it 'went mixed' in 2005. The women’s wing was named the Boughton Wing to celebrate this work after her retirement from St Mary’s College in 2014.
As a Senior Lecturer working for the British Council in the Republic of Singapore in the early 1980s Gillian voluntarily trained as a Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association Aftercare officer in order to gain clearance to teach English in the Changi women's prison under the auspices of Anglican Welfare in Singapore. Later, in the 1980s she was the first Chaplaincy informal visitor to the High Security Women's wing in Durham, since closed. Since 2016 she has been voluntary Chair of the Durham County Priory Group, St John Ambulance; and Trustee of several local charities.
Gillian is a regular worshipper at Durham Cathedral.
Her late husband Tom Willmore, Pure Mathematician, who died in February 2005, did internationally significant work in Riemannian Geometry and is honoured by a granite Willmore Torus artwork near Durham University library.
Her current offering to St John’s College is tied up with her role as Literary Executor of the late D. Ruth Etchells, the first woman Principal of St John’s College with Cranmer Hall. She is beginning to work on an edition of Ruth’s published and unpublished writings and acts as mediator for the sabbatical programme of Etchells’ Resident Sabbatical Fellows who are regularly appointed by St John’s College.