The Open Spaces Society’s former vice-president, the late Margaret Smith, would have been 101 today. She died in 2010 aged 91 and is still greatly missed. Her husband Ronald is aged 95.
Margaret was a keen, generous and hardworking supporter of the Open Spaces Society. Not only had she been a vice-president since 1997, and custodial trustee from 1992 to 2008, but she also represented the society on the Hampstead Heath Consultative Committee from 1993 to 2001.
Margaret was born in 1918 in Bristol. Both her parents were schoolteachers. She and Ronald were married in 1948 and spent 62 happy years together. They lived first in Golders Green and then moved to Potters Bar in Hertfordshire in 1950. Margaret joined the tennis club and continued to play tennis well into her old age.
Her interests were mainly outdoor ones. She loved walking and this opened for her other enthusiasms—for open country and then for commons, greens and rights of way. Her work for the Open Spaces Society became an abiding passion. That led to an interest in the historical background to common land and its obscurities, and she and Ronald acquired a manorial title, as Lord of the Manor of Plardiwick, near Gnosall in Staffordshire, to see what were the implications of such a status.
Margaret was an active member of the Potters Bar Society with a spell as chairman. She was particularly keen to ensure that the open spaces and paths in Potters Bar were well protected. She cared about London open spaces as a whole and attended meetings of the London Green Belt Council, of which Ronald was chairman for many years and then became vice-president.
I visited Ronald and Margaret at their home and Margaret cooked me one of her Elizabethan meals, she had a host of Elizabethan recipes. It was delicious.
Ronald and Margaret travelled to 55 countries and took 16,500 slides, all of which are catalogued. These were particularly invaluable for the talks they gave to raise money for the society, amounting to significant sums over the years. Of their 2,700 talks, Margaret gave slightly over half. As Ronald said at her funeral, the problem was not to get her talking, but to stop her!
Margaret had extremely clear diction and was a pleasure to listen to. She had a lovely sense of humour. The nurses at the Chase Farm Hospital, where Margaret spent her last weeks, went out of their way to express their admiration for Margaret’s beautiful smile and her politeness to the staff.
The Open Spaces Society had a huge affection for Margaret. In her honour and his, the society’s AGM elected Ronald as a vice-president at the meeting following Margaret’s death. She left the society an extremely generous legacy and we are indebted to her for her support and enthusiasm for the cause.