Norah Smeaton Joined the club in 1936 so was a well established member before it occurred to the founders to start keeping membership records in 1939.


I never had the pleasure of meeting Norah but from numerous reference to her in historical club records I know that she was a very active and much loved member for a very long time. Indeed she was a member for 56 years until her sudden death in November 1992 and in her early years she served on the committee in four (not consecutive) years.


She was obviously a leader before the outbreak of the second world war temporarily changed the mode of operation of the club in many ways. In the club history an article about war time arrangements recordes that after the war familiar names reappeared as leaders, including Norah who continued as a leader until 1980. I do not know how many walks she led in that time (although I intend to find out and record it here eventually) but I do know that those she did lead had the reputation of being happy, joyful events and were meticulously prepared and led.


in 1950 Norah was involved in a humourous incident on a Hatfield walk led by Eric Colegate and recorded in a great selection of rambling memories put together by Con Ryan. The afternoon walk involved walking through an area that looked like the remains of an old ex army haven when an old tyre started a sudden rush along the road, Norah in merry mood, tried to lassoo Tony with it and found the tables turned quickly as he wrapped it over her own and Kathleen's heads and rushed them helplessly along the track as they called in vain for help! 


Then in 1954 on a rambling holiday in Germany there was a potentially disastrous adventure on a mountain when Norah dislodged a stone and sprained her ankle attempting to carry on walking down the mountain. The other members of the group formed themselves into a living imitation of a stretcher and in trying to get Norah down the mountain managed to break her leg. Eventually after several scary hours on the mountain and an encounter with the local police force they arrived back in safety. The late Jimmy Manual finished his hilarious account of the whole adventure with the sentence "I know of no one else who would have survived the rescue treatment meted out to Norah Smeaton, and still be able to laugh with that snort of hers all the way down that inglorious Baerenkopf". The incident was also reported in the national press back in England. You can read the full text of Jimmy's account HERE.


In the 1960s and 70s, when the club was at its peak, to show appreciation for the hospitality the club enjoyed at St Joseph's, Bunhill Row, Norah with Jean Horan (now also sadly deceased) ran an "All Sorts" stall and sometimes a bottle stall on behalf of the Club at St Joseph's Parish Annual Bazaar. Articles and donations were collected and raffle tickets sold on the Tuesday evenings before the Bazaar. This started in 1964 and continued until the School closed in 1976. They usually made the equivalent of £300 to £400 in today's money which was a substantial part (a third to a half) of the money raised at the Bazaar.


Also in the late sixties and seventies Mick McKeown (Press Photographer at the Daily Express), organised an annual photo competition and a wine and cheese party for the club and in this records show that he was assisted by Norah.


On Boxing Day in 1946 there was an impromptu shared tea and sing song in a member's house on the way back from a ramble. This prompted  Norah to lead a special pre-Christmas ramble the following year and she did it annually until the early sixties. Usually in the Boxhill area stopping in the evening for carols and Merrydown at the Stepping Stones pub (formerly the Railway Arms). If they got there before the old opening time of seven, believing the landlord to be a Catholic, they sang Adeste Fidelis until it opened. A Committee member disguised as Father Christmas distributed presents to members.


Norah's enthusiasm for catering was obviously in evidence when the club had a special Golden Jubilee celebration in 1980. One record of the event included the slighly sad sentence "Norah Smeaton was busily occupied, but looking rather fragile".


In the early part of 1992 I was acting as the club's membership secretary and wrote to members who had not paid their subscriptions. I got a charming reply from Norah saying "how could I possibly forget to pay after 56 years in the club?". I then became club secretary in October that year and at that time the arrangements for printing the programme were such that we printed each page as it was finalised and the printing of the whole programme was thus done over a period of a week or two. On the first page of my first programme in November 1992 I included a paragraph recording how much pleasure Norah's letter had given me. Sadly though, before the back page was ready Norah had a turn on the Underground platform and died so it was my sad duty to announce her death in the same programme as I had expressed satisfaction with her last letter to the club. May she rest in peace.




ps Several years after her death, after we had started the club website, I had a letter from a relative asking if I knew where Norah was buried. In his attempts to find the answer he had googled Norah's name and the club website was included in the reply. To my eternal regret I was not able to help.