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YHA Barbara Smith
    05/04/2012 11:35

Barbara Smith

The death of Barbara Smith on 22nd March brought to an end a record of service to YHA (the Youth Hostels Association) lasting nearly five decades.

Barbara's involvement with the management, support and governance of YHA began when she was in her teens, with her local group and the West Riding Regional Group. This was one of 16 groups which at that time were responsible, almost entirely unaided by paid staff, for running Youth Hostels in their geographical region, a commitment few would contemplate today.

Her work continued, alongside that of husband Ian, in an enlarged Yorkshire Regional Group as the regions of YHA amalgamated to 10 regions in 1966. When YHA introduced paid management in the 1980's Barbara continued, serving the Northern England Region on its Council and Committees, including spells as Vice-Chairman and Chairman.

She also continued to serve nationally, particularly on the Finance Committee which oversaw the financial well-being of YHA, where for many years her eye for detail and meticulous work were particularly appropriate.

She eventually became a trustee on what was then the National Executive Committee of YHA, now the Board of Trustees, and her talents and work were recognised by successive appointments as Assistant Treasurer and Vice-Chairman.

She was also the first Chairman of the Nominations Committee responsible for the selection of candidates for election at the Annual General Meeting, when YHA began to make its trustee appointment process more professional.

Alongside her work within governance of YHA, Barbara was an active volunteer, managing a programme in the North of England for running many smaller Youth Hostels with volunteers, and her work as Chairman of the Friends of Slaidburn, a group supporting a small hostel in the Forest of Bowland, Lancashire.

Even as she entered hospital for the last time she was preparing for a working party with and a meeting of the Friends.

To all this Barbara brought a quiet competence, a determination to see tasks followed through and thoroughly done. Her contributions in meetings were less frequent than those of many, and more effective than most, as she would usually get right to the heart of an issue, and often with an original and very relevant point of view.

Never showy, she was content to see a job well done, and never sought the limelight for her many achievements.

Barbara was a bright school pupil who always had a clear idea of what she wanted to do, and the determination to do whatever she felt was necessary to achieve it, whether or not this was conventional.

She fulfilled her great interest in languages, not through academia but by practical application in the local woollen industry, learning shorthand and typing of her own volition in the process. She completed courses with the Institute of Linguists, initially in French and then in German, earning the equivalent of a degree.

She later became a lecturer in languages – she spoke no less than four fluently – but continued through handicrafts with a strong interest in wool, a fact reflected in the woollen casket in which she made her final journey.

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