Charity pioneer, runner, climber and storyteller, who was larger than life

Date: Friday 1st May 2020
Stewart Simpso
Stewart Simpso

AN Eden man who was awarded an OBE for his pioneering work with a national deaf charity has died, aged 85.

Stewart Simpson lived at The Smithy, Catterlen with his wife of 55 years, Val.

Originally from Penrith, he was the son of Andrew and Myra Simpson and was brought up in Wigan where his father worked on the railways, before the family returned to Penrith when he was a teenager.

After leaving school he initially worked at a number of branches of the Midland Bank, including Penrith, before gaining a teaching qualification at Durham University and going on to do a Masters degree in social administration at the London School of Economics.

He taught at Carlisle Technical College innitially, before becoming a lecturer in social policy at Moray House College, in Edinburgh, where he was responsible for teaching policy to social workers, community workers and teachers.

His work with the deaf started when he joined a communications skill project funded by the Government and administered by the British Deaf Association, which was based in Carlisle.

It had already been running for two years before Stewart became involved and he went on to become director of the project, organising its change in name and status to the Council for the Advancement of Communication with Deaf People (CACDP) in December, 1980.

The organisation became a registered charity in 1982.

The CACDP was the national examination board in sign language and existed as a valuable link between deaf and hearing people.

In 1985 the organisation’s local base was moved to Durham, with operations in place throughout England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

When Stewart was awarded an OBE for his work in the New Years Honours list in January, 1999, he told the Herald: “There are now 1,000 people teaching sign language in this country. “To people who could previously not value themselves it has given enormous feeling of income and opportunity.”

Stewart headed the CACDP for nearly 20 years, stepping down in 1999.

Outside of work Stewart was described by his family as “larger than life” and “energetic to the end”.

Aged 67, he completed the London Marathon, and was still supporting CACDP, which he chose as the charity to benefit from his efforts. He also took part in a number of half-marathons.

While also aged in his 60s, Stewart climbed Kilimanjaro, did the Machu Picchu trail and visited Timbuktu. These were great experiences for another love of his — regaling stories. Ever the gentleman, he was a good listener to family, friends and colleagues and his face lit up when any of his beloved family came to the house.

At home he was a keen gardener and above all else a much loved husband, dad, grandfather and great-grandad who always made time for his family. In retirement Stewart and Val travelled widely and have many happy memories.

Tributes have been paid to Stewart by organisations involved in communications with deaf people including the National Registers of Communication Professional Working with Deaf and Deafblind People which said it was “difficult to overestimate the impact he had — without his vision, foresight and towering contribution, NRCPD would not be here today, 40 years later, as the national regulator of language professionals working with and for deaf people.”

His contribution to improving the lives of deaf people was immeasurable.

He is survived by his two daughters, Nicola Bircher, of Catterlen; and Liz Pallister, of Chester; along with his two grandchildren — Hannah and Rebekah; and two great-grandchildren — Livvy and Chester.

A private service will be held on Monday at St John’s Churchyard, Newton Reigny. The arrangements are in the care of Richardsons Funeral Directors, Penrith.

A thanksgiving service will be held at a later date.