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Stewart Simpson OBE Obituary

Added 29 Apr 2020

On, Tuesday 21st April 2020, Stewart Simpson OBE, passed away at the age of 85.

Stewart was born on 30 December 1934, he was a loving husband of Valerie and a much-loved father of Nicola and Liz, adored grandfather of Hannah and Rebekah, special papa of Livvy and Chester and friend to many.

Stewart was one of the founders of CACDP, which began life as a DHSS-funded communication project administered by the British Deaf Association. He joined the project as Director in 1979, having previously been a lecturer in social policy and administration at Moray House College, Edinburgh, and in business and social studies at Carlisle Technical College.

When he started work with us, the aim was to develop sign communication skills and establish training centres leading to qualifications as registered interpreters. Within 2 years Stewart had led the way to create the first Register of Interpreters.

He was responsible for bringing together 10 national organisations and 4 training institutions, which became the original 'Council' and then forming CACDP, the independent organisation which became a charity and then grew to be the organisation we know today.

In his 20 years with CACDP he took us from this small communication project to a national examination board with offices in Durham, Glasgow, Belfast and London.

Stewart's inclusive approach to developing BSL as a language, the organisation, the reputation of the qualifications and the register ensured he was widely respected in the field. He brought his unswerving commitment to all methods of communication to every challenge he faced and the passion that he felt can clearly be seen in all he achieved.

His belief that CACDP had the potential to break down traditional barriers to achieve dialogue between organisations allowed us to build an organisation which regulates the communication professionals available to us all, with more than 1000 registrants and which now operates separately.

And it is thanks to Stewart that we were given Awarding Body status by the QCA (now Ofqual) for British Sign Language Levels 1-5 in 1998 which paved the way for so many people to study BSL with Signature since he first had that ambition to make a change.

Once he retired from the challenges of CACDP he found time for a different type of challenge in expeditions to Mount Kilimanjaro, Vietnam and the Machu Piccu Inca trail as well as running the London Marathon at the age of 67. Stewart loved to travel and in retirement he and Val travelled to many countries and parts of the UK. He also continued to meet up on an annual basis with 'the nostalgic nine' a group of friends that he met whilst at University of Durham all those years ago.

In April 1999, Stewart received the Order of the British Empire from Prince Charles in recognition of his work in improving communication between deaf and hearing people. He was joined at the palace by his wife Valerie and daughter Elizabeth.

In retirement Stewart continued his interest in deafness and carried on his charitable work supporting charities such as Cumbria Deaf Association (as President) and Hearing Link (he was Vice President only stepping down in 2015). He was also a supporter of Carlisle Rugby Club. At this time, he started to write the book 'Advance to an Ideal' detailing the history of CACDP from its origins to his retirement.

The end of 2019 marked 20 years since Stewart had retired from CACDP. Although he had 'avoided visiting the office in Durham and giving dated, unwanted and unneeded advice to my successors' (his words), he decided the time was right to come to the Durham office and pay a visit and looking back we are so pleased that he was able to come and see how we had progressed from where he started.

Each year Stewart sent a Christmas letter in the 2019 letter he expressed how pleased he was that the organisation continued to provide a full range of training and assessments in deaf communications, with over 420,000 people having taken examinations and hundreds of deaf people being employed as tutors and examiners over the years. He was particularly pleased to see Signature continue to get the recognition that he worked so hard to achieve in the first 20 years of the organisation.

What he did not say however, was that none of that could have been achieved if it hadn't been for him, his vision and his belief all those years ago when he started work on a communication project.

Both Signature and NRCPD would not exist today if it wasn't for Stewart. Stewart's beliefs are still an essential part of what we do today, and he was an inspiration to all of us at Signature, he will be sorely missed.

Click here to read some of our favourite Stewart memories.