George Newman, 1929-2019

George Newman, from a family photograph taken 2017 on his 88th birthday, used by kind permission

It’s the funeral today of George Newman, beloved pillar of the community and renowned builder of much of Allendale, actually. We’ve traced some of George’s building projects in an earlier item (19th April) in the diary, but this piece today is meant to be a more personal reflection on George himself.

I always enjoyed a chat with George, as his sense of contemporary history was salutary in the most unexpected ways. It was clear that he’d done everything possible to produce the new addition to Allendale Village Hall under a very tight budget, but he would worry when we met about the state of the balcony, or why the parish council didn’t avail themselves of the opportunity to create significant off-road parking on the old grass tennis court that’s become the kick-around space. It was George who told me back in about 2005 why the floor boards in the main hall were so wonky: the surface had apparently worn down so much on the original pine timber floor, some 85 years after installation, that when the New Hall was being built in 1990, they decided to lift the planks and replace them upside down. As revealed to the renovators only after the work was well underway, however, the ‘downside’ to this approach, though the planks’ bottoms were smooth, was that the pieces had been cut into a sided tongue-and-groove, to fit snugly together only on the top side, and the recessed bottom side of the groove lip, as it were, exposed huge gaps between the boards. Ultimately, of course, those old pine boards were simply covered up with new oak flooring that did fit tightly together.

George was always so humble, for such an accomplished builder, and, as I discovered through the years, so loyal to his friends and family. I remember his pride when grand-daughter Sarah sang in one concert; how, he noted, she kept time by clenching and unclenching her little hands. He always remembered Carrie’s name, even shortly before the end, stimulated perhaps by his love of her voice and fondness for her solos in the Dale Singers.

George was so proud of having been the founder of the Dale Singers (see 5th February) though he stopped conducting a few years after the choir’s inception, preferring to hold the tenor line together. And hold it he certainly did, showing the bashful men how to sing the most affecting solo number ‘Comfort ye my people’ from Handel’s Messiah, on a wonderful Christmas programme at Allendale village hall. But later, he and Joan would support the choir’s concerts as much as possible, even after it became too much to be singing.

George was such a familiar sight ambling along Wentworth with his dog, first with one cane, then with two. In his later years he had worked up a hobby constructing amazing creations out of pebble mosaics. He loved to be occupied, he said.

We’ll miss George nearly as much as his family does, I’m sure, in Allendale, but we’ll remember him fondly as we look about the village at the building legacy he’s left. Thank you George, for your care and concern about the village you loved.

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