History & Heritage
Alfred Ronald Thompson (1 July 1917 – 2 February 2020)
Residents of Cartmel and members of its Priory’s congregation have said a fond farewell to 102 year old local resident Ron Thompson. Alfred Ronald Thompson, was born in Ulverston on July 1st 1917 whilst his father was serving with the army in France. The family moved to Cartmel for a time when his father returned from the war and became the organist at the Priory. After leaving Ulverston Grammar School at 16, Ron joined the District Bank in Windermere and was issued with a motorbike to enable him to provide cover at the remote sub-branches around the Lakes. He was also busy in his spare time with St Martins church choir and the Territorial Army.
At the outbreak of war in 1939, Ron’s unit was sent with the British Expeditionary Force to help to defend France from German Invasion. When the overwhelming Blitzkrieg attack came in 1940, the BEF was forced back and Ron was evacuated from the beach at Dunkirk and arrived back in southern England. He retrained as a specialist signals cypher coding operator and in June 1944 was part of HQ 15 Scottish Division when it landed on the Normandy beaches. This special formation supported the Allied Armies across France, Belgium and Holland into Germany by deceiving the enemy that it was about to be attacked by large (but fictitious) units. Ron was discharged in 1946 as a Warrant Officer 2 and in 2016 was awarded Chevalier de l’Ordre National de la Légion d’Honneur by the French Government.
Returning to the bank in Ulverston, Ron met and married Joan Winn and they set up home in Cartmel with daughters Susan arriving in 1948 and Catherine in1950. Further family moves came as he was promoted and posted successively as National Westminster Bank branch managers of Windermere, Bowness and Ulverston, eventually retiring in 1976 and returning to Cartmel two years later. He did not allow retirement to slow him up and remained active over the next 40 years with the Priory choir, running and auditing local club and society accounts, gardening and (not least) enjoying the company of his increasing number of grandchildren and greatgrandchildren.
Ron and Joan were saddened by the sudden death of their daughter Susan in 1991 and Joan eventually died in 2006. But Ron remained as an active, much loved and respected member of the local community, looking after himself and continuing his daily walks around the village till after his 100th birthday in 2017. He moved into Boarbank Hall Nursing Home last November, where he passed away quietly on February 2nd. Many of his friends and acquaintances joined his family for his funeral in the Priory for a service which included some of his favourite hymns and music from his many years with the choir.
Geraldine Wentworth Braithwaite – March 21st 1936 to July 6th 2019
The village and peninsula of Cartmel has lost a familiar and respected resident with the recent passing of Geraldine Braithwaite. Born in London in 1936, she was evacuated at the age of 3 to live with her aunt and grandmother at their home in Arnside where she remained throughout her childhood. She entered Lancaster College of Art in 1954, also earning an art teacher’s diploma at Reading University and studying stage design at the Central School of Art in London. She created scenery work at Sadlers Wells and in America and lectured in art at Keighley Technical College before being appointed as the head of art in St George’s School of English in Rome in 1975. During her 14 years in Italy Geraldine became an active member of the Anglican church community, associating with senior members of the Vatican and attending the investiture of Pope Paul VI. She also enjoyed the social and cultural life in Rome and the opportunity for travel around Italy and further afield into Central Asia.
Geraldine returned to her beloved Cumbria in 1989, buying a house in Cartmel with a music room where, with her cousin Carolyn, she could organise concerts. Many such events were held over the following 30 years, raising thousands of pounds for various charities. Geraldine took particular interest in the Brooke Animal Hospital, which had been started after WW1 to care for ex-army horses left behind in Egypt, but which is now operating in ten developing countries, supporting 2 million working equines, and their impoverished owners. Her Brooke stand was a regular sight at local shows and races, and Geraldine organised frequent coffee mornings and sales. In 2017 she was invited to a Royal Garden Party at Buckingham Palace and was introduced to the Brooke’s patron the Duchess of Cornwall.
Geraldine continued using her art skills by writing and illustrating a number of children’s books, exhibiting her paintings as a member of Kendal Art Society, designing cards for The Brooke, and artwork displayed at St Anthony’s Church, Cartmel Fell, where she was an active and supportive member. Her funeral and interment were held at St Anthony’s and a string trio played to the large congregation.
Dr Malcolm William Arthurton (27 April 1918 – 9 January 2016)
In January 2016 Cartmel Priory was full to say a fond farewell to Cartmel resident Malcolm Arthurton.
Malcolm was born in Peckham, but with his father in the RAF he spent his early years in Egypt which probably explains why he wore a woolly jumper on all but the hottest days!
He did his medical training at Westminster Hospital in London and while still a student was treating blitz casualties in the Emergency Department.
After qualification he joined the RAF and was soon posted as junior Medical Officer to 617 Squadron and was privileged to be part of the “Dambusters” although he only talked about it in his final years, probably because he lost 40% of his flight crew patients in one night. The air crews had lots of air sickness problems associated with low flying and he tried out numerous remedies on himself during the practice flights to try and improve their plight. Following the dam raids he was posted to Bari in Italy where the flight of Dakotas was involved in Special Operations including retrieval of injured partisan casualties from occupied Yugoslavia. Malcolm went on many of these dangerous flights to treat casualties on the way back and was mentioned in despatches.
After the war Malcolm trained as a Paediatrician and met Eve at Westminster Hospital and they were married in 1950. The combination of Eve’s forthright personality and Malcolm’s patient and unassuming manner made them a great team. Amanda was born on 1952 and Isabel in 1954 and the family moved to Bradford where Malcolm was a Consultant for many years, during which he coped with the smallpox epidemic of 1962 and also did research on rickets in Asian children.
He retired in 1983 and was heavily involved in the development of Martin House Children’s Hospice at Boston Spa. Malcolm and Eve moved to Cartmel in 1994 to be near Isabel and David, but sadly Eve died in 1995. Malcolm continued with his duties at the Priory including being a sidesman, Priory Tours and locking up duties and also took on Eve’s Meals on wheels round, which he did with Marjorie, until retiring aged 90!
He and Marjorie Wilkinson, his neighbour formed a close friendship, sharing outings, meals and glasses of wine. He also very much enjoyed spending time with his grandchildren Chris and Jenny and was always there for sports days and special events.
Malcolm was the first Chairman of the Cartmel Peninsula History Society and helped found the Men’s Fellowship group. He also organised the Lent lunches for many years, and was known for telling the helpers not to give out too much bread and soup as they were meant to be frugal.
Malcolm was well known for recycling and was well ahead of his time starting in the 1960’s and raised over £5000 for Action Medical Research collecting scrap metal. He and Marjorie were known to heave copper piping out of skips and were well known at Ulverston scrap yard.
Malcolm loved Cartmel Priory and his last visit was for the Magna Carta celebrations which he enjoyed immensely. He was chuffed when the Son et Lumiere crew said he was probably the oldest person ever to attend one of their gigs.
FRANK ANTONY MERCER (31st May 1919 – 12th May 2012)
He was educated at Sedbergh School, Cumbria. Surprisingly, given the importance of chronometers for maintaining and developing the British Empire there was no British horological school. So, Tony attended the Ecole Nationale d’Horologerie at Cluses in south-east France and as the only Englishman there he was nicknamed ‘L’Anglais’.
After his time in France he returned to St Albans and spent 5 years as a clock springer, before taking over the family firm of Thomas Mercer Chronometers. Until the relatively recent emergence of reliable digital technology and global positioning systems, chronometers were the only devices which provided the ultra-precise timekeeping necessary for the vital task of accurate navigation at sea.
While a vessel’s latitude can be calculated from the observation of heavenly bodies, its longitude can only be known if it possesses a precise timekeeper, whose accuracy is unaffected by the rolling and pitching of the ship, as well as changes in temperature.
Mercer supplied chronometers to the Royal Navy, the Royal Yacht Brittania, the Queen Mary, the famous yachtsman Sir Francis Chicester and Ernest Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition.
Tony became chairman of main UK Horological Trade Associations, eventually writing three books that were described as the ‘bibles for the practical, technical and historical aspects of the chronometer’. They are now used in training new horologists.
His easy manner, technical understanding and passion for his subject made him a highly effective company representative travelling the world’s ports.
Italian clients saw him as a James Bond like figure.
He was known there as ‘il vecchio leone’ (the old lion) – a handsome, pipe-smoking, quintessential Englishman, driving his sports car around Lake Como.
A complex man, he was cultured but funny, tough but sensitive, passionate but business-like. He lamented the government’s lack of investment in industry at the time and the passing of Victorian enterprise and dynamism which Mercer embodied.
Tony retired to Beckside Cottage in Cartmel, Cumbria. His grandson, Joel Mercer, the illustrator, looked after him. He stayed in touch until the end with the old team, including his brother, Gurney.
Tony and Gurney with their sons, fought against the advent of cheaper quartz timepieces. The market for traditional marine chronometers inevitably suffered when GPS technology began to dominate. Sadly, the firm was wound up in 1984. However, Tony lived to see the company relaunched, it was bought by, the luxury Italian clockmaker La Vallee.
Tony’s third wife predeceased him.
He passed away on May 12th 2012 and was survived by three sons from his first marriage.
Joyce Penelope Juliana Smith (3rd August 1909 – 10th April 2007)
Joyce Penelope Juliana Smith was born on Walney Island, Cumbria on August 3rd 1909. Her father was the Venerable Godfrey Scott Smith and mother Katherine Isabella (nee Powlett), daughter of Admiral Powlett. Joyce’s family had a long ecclesiastical history. Her great-great Grandfather was Dr Alexander John Scott, chaplain, confidant and interpreter to Admiral Nelson on HMS Nelson at the Battles of Copenhagen and Trafalgar.
Joyce had five siblings all of whom pre-deceased her. Namely Betty her elder sister, Armand, Sydney, John and Grace. Her nearest younger brother Armand died only 3 weeks before her at the end of March 2007.
She was initially educated at home by her governess, living both at Haverthwaite and Cartmel Vicarages. She then attended Pengwern School and Berridge House.
At the tender age of 8 Joyce had the honour of raising the flag on Cartmel Priory to mark the end of World War One.
In her twenties Joyce made a bid for freedom by signing up for a travelling mission in Canada. She learned to drive a lorry and drove from the Atlantic to the Pacific Coast taking literature for the Society of Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK) out into the wilds of the country. Her family received fascinating letters home about the children living in the most rural parts of Canada.
Joyce chose nursing as a career and qualified in midwifery in the 1950’s, a skill that took her to Malta and around the British Isles. She loved babies and was much liked by the mothers that she helped. She even delivered one of her five Godchildren!
She was a very devoted and attentive Godmother to Nick Armand Smith, Gray Grayrigge, Samuel Thompson, Andrew Jones and Honor Armand Smith.
She eventually settled in London, her home for many years. As a nurse at St Thomas’s Hospital, as the warden at a home for unmarried mothers, who did not behave as she would have wished, and lastly at the Treasury as the resident Sister Smith. She had a lovely, roof top flat. This was one of her happiest phases in life.
Whilst at the Treasury she developed a lifelong friendship with Robin Butler, who became Rt. Hon. Lord Butler of Brockwell, a senior member of the Treasury.
He recounted an interesting tale after her death about seeing Joyce for the last time.
‘I last saw Joyce on 10th march. My wife and I were visiting Kendal where I was due to speak at a dinner. We went to visit Joyce in the afternoon. When we arrived, she was asleep and our attempts to wake her were met without success. We were about to give up and depart, and I stood over her bed saying “This is Robin Butler, Joyce. My wife and I came to visit you”
At that point she suddenly awoke and said quite distinctly “Robin Butler. How wonderful. Head Boy of Harrow. My father was Head Boy of Charterhouse, you know” For a moment it was like the old times. I shall never know whether she registered that I had been to visit her. But that moment gave me great pleasure.
Joyce was certainly a great character. Her family and friends have, often, used two words to describe her, indomitable and intolerant, though in a pleasant manner. It has to be said that Joyce did not suffer fools gladly nor did she think that anyone marrying into the Smith family were quite good enough. There are several in-laws whom she initially disapproved of, but happily she was wrong more often than not, and many marriages have stood the test of time.
Another memorable part of Joyce’s life, for family and friends, were stories of her driving. In her possessions was a driving licence with an endorsement for “inconsiderate driving” so they were not new! In 1977 she had an accident in Glenshee, Aberdeenshire when she missed a corner and turned her car over. She crawled out through the windscreen with her handbag over her arm and the Times in her hand. She climbed up the hill to hail a passing car, which happened to be full of young men. One can only imagine what they thought.
Joyce once found herself on the wrong side of the Severn Bridge. She hated driving across it and heard a bell ringing and a knock when she got to the other side. Half a mile later she was stopped by a Police car. The officer said ‘Madam you have to pay to cross the bridge’. To which she replied ‘I am not prepared to pay for such a ghastly experience’ She reluctantly gave them the 50 pence and they escorted her off the motorway.
Joyce had many hobbies. Bookbinding was her great love, she learnt it at evening classes in London and it became a major part of her life. Campanology also became a lifelong pleasure, Joyce learnt to ring in Cartmel Priory. It was an experience to see her ring the tenor bell standing on a box.
She was also a competent dressmaker, she loved sewing, was highly skilled and was able to create quality garments.
Joyce was a prolific writer, she wrote long and interesting letters to her family and friends, letters of complaint and letters of praise and hounded the establishment at every level. She wrote copious letters to newspaper editors all her life, as well as articles for magazines, including the Cartmel Priory.
Joyce took retirement in 1977 and moved to Cartmel. Garth House, which was purchased by her father in 1934, became her permanent home when she retired.
She spent the last years of her life at Underwood Care Home in Grange over Sands. It was not what she wanted but the staff cared for in a most kind and devoted way.