Brenda Firth, keep-fit evangelist

Brenda Firth
Brenda Firth
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Brenda Firth, who has died at 92, was a pioneer in promoting the benefits of exercise, having in the 1970s led the National Keep Fit Association’s annual rally at the Royal Albert Hall.

Born Brenda Cowling in Dewsbury, on September 10, 1925 to Charlie and Lena Cowling, she was raised within an educational environment. Her maternal grandfather, whom she admired, was the retired principal of the Dewsbury and Batley Technical College.

At the Wheelwright Grammar School she was outstanding at dance and sport and then went to study at IM Marsh College of Physical Education in Liverpool. There she learned teaching skills, refined her knowledge of physiology and dance movement and developed a lifetime’s commitment to improving health through movement and dance.

She married John Firth 1951. At the time he worked in the architects’ department at Dewsbury Borough Council, and subsequently pursued a successful career with the Yorkshire based architects Abbey Hanson Rowe and Partners.

Following teaching posts at Heckmondwike and Morley Grammar Schools and a brief pause in sports activities and theatrical performances with Dewsbury Collegians, she took time out from her career to have her sons Paul and Andrew in 1954 and 1957 respectively.

When they grew, she began her second career in further education, primarily with the Keep Fit Association, the Sports Council and as a lecturer at the Leeds School of Physiotherapy.

As a national leader she lectured and led training weekends to help the Keep Fit Association expand its activities. This culminated in 1974 at the Albert Hall, where she followed in the footsteps of the association’s founder, the TV exercise pioneer, Eileen Fowler.

She was recognised within the Association for her inspiration to others, her willingness to spend time with those who needed extra support, and for her management skills in leading the local association which was staffed entirely by volunteers.

Her effort was recognised by the Sports Council with an award for services to sport in 1987.