THE brilliant innings of one of Craven’s great war-time heroes, and also a peace time community champion, Norman Robinson, has finally ended at the age of 97.

One of eight brothers and sisters, Norman was born and grew up in Skipton’s now demolished Mill Bridge Cottages beside Eller Beck and the Old Corn Mill.

He attended the newly constructed Skipton Parish Church Primary School on Otley Street and then moved to Brougham Street Secondary Modern School from where he left age fourteen to start full-time employment. Firstly extending his then part- time school day run as a delivery boy for the High Street grocers Stockdale and Helm. His subsequent full-time role would then include the horse and cart deliveries as far as Kettlewell. Long days but adventurous times.

Norman was then tempted to include craft besides graft in his employment repertoire and moved to work for nearby Manby’s, fitting fireplaces, prior to him engaging in a wider range of the building trade rudiments as he went to work for another nearby Skipton firm, Shuttleworth’s, who undertook some building work but were most noted as pebble dashers and plasterers.

It was in this area of the building trade where Norman would particularly find his niche, soon to become widely respected, with pace, precision and neatness being his hall-mark, and no task or challenge ever too onerous. Indeed, they were challenges which would also stand him in good stead for an hitherto unforeseen reason, when the outbreak of the Second World War saw Norman answer the call to arms at just eighteen years of age.

He enlisted for the Royal Navy with H.M.S Belfast which soon after would be deployed with the Arctic Convoys to ship supplies to Northern Russia. The “most dangerous journey on the planet” described Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, as the crews encountered waves up to thirty feet high, then, as the Russian winter descended, they encountered temperatures of up to minus forty degrees, besides them being under heavy bombardment from both air and sea.

Many of Norman’s comrades failed to return, but their deeds of support were a vital contribution to the overall war effort. Deeds of untold bravery, which would later be recognised, even at the height of the subsequent “Cold War” when the Soviet Union’s President Brezhnev authorised the awarding of a special Ushakov medal to all the survivors of that mighty ordeal.

Norman’s later war-time deeds included his vital role in the D Day landings, “Hell on Earth” and which would then be tangibly recognised by France’s President Mitterrand through his awarding of the Legion d’honneur. Both awards though, despite their immense prestige, were received by Norman with a mixture of pride and sadness in respect and tribute of his many comrades who never came back.

At the end of the war, Norman was a member of the Naval Choir which sung at the first Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall in November 1945. By then he had already returned to spend the rest of his long working life in the building trade and he went to work for another local firm Merritt and Fryers, which had become one of the key players in Craven’s emergency post-war house building programme. And in addition it also constructed numerable iconic land-mark buildings such as Bradley Village Institute and Ermysted’s Memorial Hall.

Whether individually or part of a team, Norman worked far and wide across the district, and the eventual return to the locality of an older brother Frank would then prompt the duo, in 1960 to found their own firm, N.F and F Robinson Plastering Contractors, with demands for their services from “day one” onwards being predictably huge.

Norman’s alacrity, with all the tools of the trade, also saw him fulfil numerable voluntary community roles, perhaps most notably amongst those, together with two of his pals, Jim Skelton and Neville Tomkins, they re-decorated, all in their spare time, a massive swathe of the Petyt Grove and Newmarket Street bungalows which were badly ravaged in the 1979 Skipton floods.

Away from his immense contributions to both country and community, Norman was also a keen sportsman and he particularly made his mark in the swimming galas which featured at the old Moorview indoor and outdoor pools. He having become most notably a key figure for Skipton’s formidable water polo team which engaged strong opposition home and away from Colne, Nelson, Burnley, Ilkley, Otley, Pudsey, Leeds Carnegie and Blackburn, and Skipton beat the lot!

Norman was also a long-time successful player, also committee servant, with the Craven Bowling Club. Whatever though Norman had achieved as a player, and not forgetting a stint in local football, he particularly relished two memorable occasions as a fan. A lifelong follower of the fortunes – and mis-fortunes of Burnley – he was there on site to see the Clarets clinch the Football League title in 1960. But one sporting occasion topped the lot when his nephew Mark Rimmer rode the winner of the Autumn classic, the Cesarewitch.

Above all though a family man, Norman who is survived by three generations, was married to a life-long pal Joan, albeit losing his dearly beloved in 1998 just a few months short of their golden wedding anniversary in 1999. However he remained vibrant and possessing a rare blend of humour almost to the very end. Indeed, he was still attending and helping out with charity and community events until aged well into his nineties, and he even survived Covid in the final run for home.

Norman “the Conqueror”.

What a man, what a star!