I WORKED for Noel as his secretary for three years in the mid-Eighties, and we became dear friends for the next 30 years. He was born in Whitchurch, Shropshire, an only child to parents he adored and to whom he remained devoted, caring for them at home until the end of their lives. Noel was a senior prefect at Haberdashers’ Adams grammar school in Newport, where his fellow alumni include Jeremy Corbyn. Offered a place to read modern history at Oxford in 1942, his studies were delayed by war. Noel served with the RAF as a navigator and wireless officer, rising to the rank of flight officer, with 20 postings around Britain and Canada. He was proud to have flown in the Mosquito at a time when it was the fastest aircraft in the world. After the war, he finished his studies and discovered his great passion: teaching. He taught history in Northumberland, Sheffield and at Rock Ferry High School on the Wirral. Here, he found that some pupils at the back of the class, seemingly not paying
attention, actually had hearing difficulties and were not receiving the support they needed. So, with the backing of the local education authority, Noel went to Manchester University to re-train as a teacher of the deaf. He became a headmaster in 1974, and, under his guidance, the Wirral Hearing Impaired Service grew to four specialist units attached to three primaries and one secondary school. He helped hundreds of children receive the treatment and equipment they needed. It has since evolved into Sensory Service, which helps young people who have vision, hearing and multisensory impairments. Noel was private and unassuming, funny and witty. A stickler for spelling and grammar, a job application went straight in the bin because the candidate’s qualification was listed as ‘Batchelor of Arts’, as in the tinned peas. Noel wasn’t the sort of person to leave things to chance. He knew his own mind, was independent and certainly didn’t like being told what to do. He will be remembered as a lovely, special person who changed the lives of so many children and their families.
HENRY NOEL WILLIAM FLETCHER, born February 24, 1924; died January 17, 2019; aged 94.
Pioneer: On retirement, Noel was given an inscribed school bell