Ex­tra­or­di­nary LIVES

Daily Mail - - Letters - by Chris­tine Walpole

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

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