Jack Smith, by Sheila Dawes

  After he retired from the firm, Jack and his wife Marthe moved to Paris. My father, Gordon Richardson, wrote about his Uncle Jack in his memoirs with much affection. He takes up their tale.
“They fled from Bordeaux when France was overrun and occupied by Germans forces. They left most of their possessions in store in Paris. Most of their valuable items were looted by Germans.
They lived at The Nook near Ambleside in the Lake District throughout the war; the first air raids in London being too much for Marthe.”
Jean Wheelock, Gladys’s youngest daughter was sent to Ambleside to recuperate with Marthe and Jack, after experiencing a less than pleasant experience as an evacuee. She says that she couldn’t have stayed with anyone better. Jack and Marthe’s neighbours were also French and it could have been the situation that Marthe was related to them or that they escaped from France together. Their daughter was called Cynthia and was the same age as Jean. The girls got on well together and spent their days searching for adventures. Jack and Marthe were quite happy to let the girls go off in the morning with ‘pop’ and jam sandwiches. Jack was never strict but he expected good behaviour. They often went to the nearby farm belonging to a Mr. Tyson.
Jean recalls that when she, Cynthia and Jack were walking together they found an empty boat on Lake Windermere and Jack took them out for a row. It appears that he enjoyed the rowing a little too much and consequently was quite sun burnt! He enjoyed walking with them and taught them to recognise the mountains.

Jean says “I can only describe him as a lovely little man; kind with a sense of humour and adventure. I will never forget him.”

That was a sentiment that was shared by my father. Gordon Richardson wrote that during the war, Jack and Marthe usually came to London for about four weeks of the year. On many Saturdays they would take Grace and Gordon to lunch and to a cinema. At my parents’ wedding on 31st August 1940, it was Jack Smith who gave my mother Isabella Dott away as her parents were unable to travel down from Newcastle.

 

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Isabella Dott and Jack Smith on Isabella’s wedding August 1940 to Gordon Ricardson.  Jack gave her away.

 

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Family members attending the wedding of Isabella and Gordon.  Back row from the left; Marthe Smith, Pat Wheelock, Mary Richardson (Smith) Jill Wheelock (bridesmaid) ; in centre Jean Wheelock.  The girls were the 3 children of Gladys Richardson.

At the end of the war Jack and Marthe went to Jersey to avoid the heavy rates of income tax. Their final address on the island was Villa Youanni, Mount Bingham, St. Helier. My parents spent many summer holidays in Jersey and continued to meet up with the Smiths. I myself was fortunate to accompany them on one visit and in spite of a vast age difference found Jack to be very lively and ready to enjoy a political discussion.

 

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Jersey about 1963.  From the left, Gordon Richardson, Isabella Richardson and Marthe Smith.

In his later years, Jack was plagued by arthritis but nevertheless, with the aid of two sticks, he tried to keep as active as possible. Jack died in Jersey aged 92 on the 17th February 1969. My father attempted to go to his funeral but the overnight boat to Jersey could not sail  from Weymouth because of heavy storms. Marthe died in The Limes Nursing Home, St Helier on the 15th August 1974.

Gordon wrote in his memoirs “In my own way I loved them. Uncle Jack deeply, for his companionship, understanding, humour and love of life. I hardly knew my father before he fell seriously ill and died. Maybe Uncle Jack was in everything all I had hoped my father to be.”

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