Roma Andrew

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ROMA Andrew, who played a significant part in Girl Guiding and was influential in the revival of Sowerby Bridge, has died aged 87.

Born at Headon Manor, Retford, Nottinghamshire, to Major Tom and Doris Mary Richmond, her maternal grandfather, Maude Barret, was a solicitor with one of the oldest law firms in Yorkshire, practising in Otley, Leeds and Harrogate.

Mrs Andrew was educated at St Helena’s School in Eastbourne, and during the war the school was evacuated to Combermere Abbey in Shropshire.

On leaving school at 18, she joined the WRNS, serving in Scarborough and Orkney. She learnt Morse code and as an intercept operator passed messages picked up from German submarines to the Enigma code breakers at Bletchley Park.

At the end of the war, she went to Queen’s Secretarial College in London, and began her career working in Carlisle where her parents were living at that time.

One day, polishing her shoes on a sheet of newspaper, she saw an advertisement for a job in the Colonial Service working as a stenographer in Uganda. She applied for it, and was appointed to a three-year contract as secretary to the Director of Agriculture in Kampala.

Her love of Girl Guides, which had started in the small village of Hayton near Carlisle, continued in Africa and resulted in her to being asked to take over the development of Guiding in Uganda as the organisation’s community development officer.

It was a job which took her all over the country, and brought her into contact with Lady Baden-Powell, whom she drove up country to various events to mark the World Chief Guide’s visit.

It was in Africa that she met Mark Andrew, the couple being married in Namirembe Cathedral, Kampala, Uganda, by the Rev Raymond Harries, who later became Vicar of Halifax Parish Church and remained a family friend.

The friendship with Lady Baden-Powell continued, and when Mr and Mrs Andrew returned to the UK, she invited them to stay with her in Hampton Court Palace until they found a place of their own.

Their son William was born in London in 1958, and it was not long before the couple were back in Africa, but now in Rhodesia where Mr Andrew, an architect, was involved with latter stages of the Kariba Dam.

Following the birth of their second child, Sara, they returned once more to the UK in 1961, settling in West Yorkshire and becoming involved in the local community, and always willing to assist local people and local projects.

The organisations Mrs Andrew helped or joined included the Halifax Meals-on-Wheels service, Overgate Hospice, The Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery, and Square Chapel Centre for the Arts in Halifax.

Mr and Mrs Andrew who lived at Stones House, Ripponden, were active in Conservative Party local affairs, Mr Andrew serving as a county councillor, and supported by his wife when he contested two general elections.

Mrs Andrew resumed her Guiding within Sowerby Division. She held various roles within Girlguiding West Yorkshire West, and more recently was a vice-president.

Together the couple took on the head lease of Sowerby Bridge Wharf, started Shire Cruisers Narrow Boat Holidays, and were among the founders of Salt Warehouse trust, all of which were key in the regeneration of Sowerby Bridge.

They, along with others, helped to bring business and tourism to the neglected and run down 1970s town, very different from the popular thriving place it is today.

When Prince Charles visited the restored wharf in 2010, he opened the Sea Scouts Headquarters which is named after their son William who died in a car accident in 1983.

Style and effortless elegance her trademark, Mrs Andrew had a keen interest in the arts.

She was involved with Bradford Theatre in the Mill as an administrator, the Halifax Square Chapel, Northern Broadsides and the Halifax Actors Workshop. Her association with Halifax and the arts centre at Dean Clough was a result of the long-standing friendship between the Andrew family and that of Dean Clough’s Sir Ernest Hall.

Other organisations with which she was connected included Halifax Civic Trust, the East African Women’s League, the National Council of Women, Halifax Minster Mother’s 
Union and Welcomers, the Royal Society of St George, the Yorkshire Society, Yorkshire and Cumbria in Bloom – and specifically Sowerby Bridge in Bloom.

Mrs Andrew – a social media network of her own – is survived by her husband, their daughter Sara and grandson Daniel.