Remembering Joy Adamson

“January 20th 1910. It is hard to believe that 118 years have passed since Joy Adamson was born. To some of us, memories of this unique, passionate, forceful and extraordinary woman have not faded with time. And those memories, of course, are indisputably linked with a lioness called Elsa.

From a tiny cub, until her death in 1961, aged only five years old, Elsa was the centre of Joy’s life. The books she wrote about this unique animal – describing how she and her husband George shared their life with her- remain as fascinating today as they did then.

My husband Bill and I were extremely lucky to have been chosen to play the Adamsons in the film “Born Free”, based on Joy’s best- selling book. I always thought it must have been hard for her to watch an English actress, with no knowledge of lions or the African bush “being Joy”. But she was unfailingly generous with her advice and we became friends. In fact, when filming ended, she invited me to go to Meru with her, where the real Elsa story had taken place, and I saw a soft and vulnerable side to her that was deeply touching.

Joy will always be remembered as a person who aroused strong feelings and opinions. But she was unique. She inspired people to develop a more sensitive attitude to wild creatures and, for me, she – together with our very special friend George – showed Bill and myself a new path to follow in our life. One we never left.”

- Virginia McKenna OBE, Co-Founder of Born Free

2 Responses to “Remembering Joy Adamson”

  1. Ann Early Says:

    Thank you for this lovely post Virginia. It was Born Free, released when I was a young teenager, that led me to my three safaris in Kenya so many decades later, and on my fourth this July I will be visiting Meru. Thank you for all you and Bill and Will have done to honor Elsa and the Adamsons with the legacy and work of the Born Free Foundation.

  2. Anna Spencer Says:

    What an amazing, though slightly eccentric person Joy Adamson must have been!

    I am glad that Joy did not resent Virginia playing her in the film, and that she willingly gave guidance.
    The photo of her with Elsa is so touching and demonstrates her love of wildlife.

    Without this film and subsequent events, the Born Free Foundation might not have come into being.

    I have had Joy’s book sitting on my bookshelf for many years, but confess that I have not read it yet.
    I shall make it a priority after I have read ‘Beyond the Bars.’