Ron Nash: Leading role in North Walsham and It’s a Knockout TV programme

Ron Nash epitomised the ideals of the Big Society some six decades before the term was coined.

Mr Nash, who has died aged 85, worked in local government for over half a century, devoted much of his leisure time to a raft of community organisations and played a major part in post-war North Walsham.

His professional career, which ended in 1997, spanned major social changes ranging from slum clearance and the building of new council homes, to local government reorganisation.

Born in Leighton Buzzard, Mr Nash's first job was as a 16-year-old junior clerk in his local council offices. During the war, when he met his future wife, Jessie, he served in the RAF and had just trained as a pilot when hostilities ended.

After resuming his peace-time career, in 1957 Mr Nash became clerk to the former urban district council in North Walsham. Local government reorganisation saw him installed as deputy secretary, later district administrator, of the newly-formed North Norfolk District Council.

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But he held the post in tandem with a job as part-time clerk to the infant North Walsham Town Council, a role he kept after retiring from the district council in 1985.

He was advising and serving those in power when the slums were cleared on Vicarage Street, and on the site of the St Nicholas Court precinct, personally visiting every resident affected to explain their move to new council homes in the town.

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And when, in 1963, he and local businessman EP Rackstraw attended a meeting in an uncomfortable, cobweb-ridden public room, now the site of Wilco Motor Spares on Vicarage Street, they decided North Walsham needed a proper community centre.

After a major fund-raising drive, the centre opened in 1971 and Mr and Mrs Nash remained active committee members for many years, helping organise popular monthly dances.

When the persistence of a German teacher, Dieter Wehnert, led to North Walsham contemplating twinning links with Friesenried, it was Mr Nash who recommended that the town take the plunge, after calling in on the Bavarian village with his wife while on holiday, and being delighted by its beauty and hospitality. The couple took part in regular exchange visits over the years and made good friends in Germany.

His years as clerk included helping organise North Walsham's successful 1979 It's a Knockout challenge, when the town beat Yarmouth and Norwich and took part in the inter-continental Jeux Sans Frontieres wacky games competition; a staple of BBC TV family viewing.

In retirement Mr Nash, a member and former president of North Walsham and District Rotary Club, was able to devote more time to hobbies including supporting Norwich City, gardening, and icing cakes. He decorated three-tier cakes, made by his wife, for the weddings of each of his sons: Garry, Philip and Paul.

He also leaves seven grandchildren.

A funeral service will be held at North Walsham's St Nicholas Church on Tuesday July 5 at 1pm, followed by a private cremation.

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