of Upland Farm, Holliston, Massachusetts
5 July 1946 – 29 April 1991
from the July 1991 issue of Arabian Visions
Joyce Hampshire was only 44 when she died of cancer. Like many people of her generation, she was a free thinker. It seems a bit premature to be writing an obituary for someone her age. Death is like that.
As people of Joyce’s generation came of age, they probably drew more attention to themselves than any generation of Americans before or since. As Joyce put it, “when we entered college in the early 60’s, we looked and dressed just like our parents. By the time we graduated in 1968, we looked and dressed like the members of a motorcycle gang.” Like most of the rest of her generation, she did not continue in this vein. “I remember sitting in a circle on the floor singing songs while someone played guitar. Which seems like such a period thing to do, looking back.”
Joyce’s father, Arthur T. Gregorian, was an Armenian immigrant who opened an Oriental run store in the Boston area in 1934 and became a legend in the rug trade. Her mother, Phebe (Ballou) Gregorian, was from an old New England family. Concerning her ancestry Joyce remarked, “My face is Middle Eastern, but my heart is New England.” At the time of her death Joyce was vice-president of Arthur T. Gregorian, Inc., and had been travelling to the Middle East on rug buying trips from an early age. Following her graduation from Radcliffe College in 1968, she moved to Tehran where she taught English.
An accomplished musician, Joyce was a soprano and harpsichordist. She also composed ballads for lute and guitar, and gave occasional operatic recitals.
Joyce did her own thinking. Nothing was set in stone until she had had a chance to investigate a subject thoroughly and draw her own conclusions. And then it was still open to reinvestigation and reinterpretation. This independent, iconoclastic mind was coupled with great warmth and a brilliant sense of humor.
Joyce was the author of numerous books. Among them is a trilogy of novels in the Fantasy-Fiction genre: The Broken Citadel (1975), Casstledown (1977) and The Great Wheel (1987). “The stories take place in a world I made up, so I can do just about anything I want with it.” she remarked as she sat with her keyboard on her lap working on the third book. In collaboration with her father she authored a book on the Gregorian collection of Armenian rugs. She also lectured on the subject of Oriental rugs. Her heart may have been New England, but Joyce never forgot her father’s Armenian roots and could be fiercely defensive if she encountered attempts to deny Armenian culture and heritage. At the time of her death she was president of the Armenian Library and Museum of America, a position she had held since 1984. She was also president of Al Khamsa, Inc., the national organization having to do with Bedouin Arabian horses.
At one time Colonel Lawrence was a particular fascination for her. Joyce made a detailed study of his life, his writing, and his letters. Eventually her interest in him waned, perhaps because so many other scholars had already walked the Lawrence of Arabia path. In Carl Raswan she found a similarly romantic traveller still largely untouched by serious scholarly study. She had begun to collect his letters and other Raswan memorabilia.
Horses were one of Joyce’s great loves. Watching slow motion footage of a horse performing an Olympic-level Dressage demonstration she commented, “Horses must be just about the most aesthetically pleasing animals there are, don’t you think?” From a background in jumping and dressage, as well as having bred Welsh ponies and standing a Thoroughbred stallion at stud, she finally found Arabians.
Joyce had a special fondness for older horses. She provided for several older Arabian stallions. First was Zumirz (by Rafmirz). Some years after his passing she remarked, “I suddenly realized I’ll never have another Arabian with a four digit registration number.” Karada must have been the last living son of Azkar before he died in his mid-thirties. She also had the full brothers Janan Abinoam, Prince Hal, and Pericles. Prince Hal had experienced some health problems in his early 20’s, following which Joyce had decided to care for him in his last years. In 1985, when Hal was 26, I made a trip to Upland Farm especially to ride him. I never imagined he would outlive Joyce. Abinoam, or “Binnie,” was probably her favorite, and she wrote his story for Visions. He led her to Craver Farms, where he had been bred, and eventually to a breeding program focusing on straight Davenport Arabians.
But Joyce never forgot her other Arabians and continued to breed from them as well. If the breeding program at Upland Farm suffered from anything, it suffered from Joyce’s desire to perpetuate so many different lines of Arabians. This kept her from directing her full attention toward any one. She was proud of her mares of the *Lisa family, carrying old New England lines of Arabian breeding. She had HMR Phario (bred by Howard Marks) and used him at stud. The horses she had bred from Zumirz were always important to her. Ibn Tirf combined Blunt and Davenport lines. Joyce had other lines of American Arabian breeding as well, notably the Tsatyr granddaughter Kataali, going back to Basilisk in tail-female. Even her Davenport horses were spread across several possible breeding programs. Other equine residents at Upland Farm included a Thoroughbred mare, two Welsh ponies, and a draft horse cross. She maintained more than sixty head, as many as ten or twelve of which were breeding stallions.
Joyce’s background and knowledge of the Middle East enabled her to understand aspects of Arabian horse lore confusing to those of us familiar only with the West. When I found a reference to horses “bred in their purity for forty years,” I started counting back to find the year breeding had begun. “No, no!” Joyce cautioned. “In the Middle East, you can’t take that literally. “Forty” means ‘many’ or ‘a long time.’ You’ve heard of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves and the forty days and forty nights it rained on Noah. It’s the same thing.”
Joyce’s marriage to John Hampshire in July of 1986 was a rather late happening in her life, but soon it was hard to think of her without picturing John, too. John, an architect, came to horses largely through Joyce, but he became an able horseman who took an active part in managing the stock at Upland Farm.
Joyce eschewed the commercialism prevalent in some aspects of the Arabian industry, especially when showmanship supplanted horsemanship. “My background was in Hunters and Dressage, where even a colored browband is enough to make everyone stare. When someone shows me a stallion with glitter glued on his hooves, well….” Yet she understood the importance of competition, and the success of her Arabs in Hunter and Dressage events was notable.
During the last part of her life, Joyce had to overcome a number of physical handicaps. The trouble began when a young stallion, in a breeding situation, lost his balance and fell on Joyce. She suffered a broken leg. This required the insertion of metal plates and walking on crutches. When it was time for the removal of the plates, bone cancer was discovered in the leg. Soon she was scheduled to have the leg amputated above the knee. From her hospital bed she expressed the fear and concern natural at such times. Her sense of humor remained. “At least this hospital stay isn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg,” she advised.
Joyce adapted to life in a wheelchir, spelled occasionally by time on crutches. She told of the plans to have a prosthesis fitted so she could walk again. During this period she was undergoing regular chemotherapy treatments. What she could never understand was friends and family who expected her to reduce her herd of horses or disperse them entirely. “Why should things be any different now? My horses are just as important as they always were.” Particularly difficult for her, however, was the death of Janan Abinoam in November of 1990.
Last fall her stallion Pericles, then 25, carried her on a few trail rides. She talked of the challenges she faced riding with one leg: “In a way I’m like a sidesaddle rider since I have to have another way to give my aids on that side. My only fear is what would happen if a horse jumped sideways suddenly. With Pericles I don’t have to worry about that, but what about when I start riding other horses?”
Joyce is survived by her parents, her husband, a sister, and a brother.
Thank you, Joyce. It was always a pleasure.
His muzzle on my hand was stubbled sharply
as tall grass fields in August.
In the garden mouthing an indifferent salad
weeds and lettuce daisies grass
he’d slip into his age, asleep and eating.
On three legs stiffly propped
the ears aslant
the hip-bone angled to the fourth leg’s resting
So beautiful in his unlovely age
So angular, distended, roughly coated
I never let him die but had him stolen.
From his grave I watched our unknown neighbors carefully
and waited for his call.
There are nearly twenty years between today
and that day he had seen more years than twenty
In the enemy’s camp somewhere I know he’s tethered ‘
Lost in the tents
Despairing my arrival.
I have no spies to send, no messengers
to tell him I will come
But some day, surely
He will feel his halter slip.
I will cut his hobbles.
And we will gallop through the dark together.
Joyce B. Gregorian 4-72