Tributes after death of leading cultural figure in Harrogate district who brought warmth and talent to everything he did
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Nevin Ward, the acclaimed Nidderdale playwright, director, musician and historian has died at the age of 79.
Nevin’s work as a playwright in local theatre was legendary and he devoted nearly three decades of his life to the Pateley Bridge Playhouse, where he staged his ground- breaking plays on local history, namely The Dam Play, Gouthwaite Hall and Eugene Aram.
Born Robert Nevin Ward in Cramlington, Northumberland, in 1944, Nevin was the son of a miner.
He attended Blyth Grammar School and upon completing his A-Levels began training with the Civil Service at Bletchley Park.
His subsequent career with GCHQ saw him posted all around the UK and also abroad.
It was while working at Scarborough in the early part of his career, however, that he met his beloved wife Christine through their mutual love of music, marrying in 1967.
Nevin’s final posting was to Menwith Hill in 1975, where he held the position of Senior UK Officer.
This assignment led to his move to Summerbridge with his young family.
Despite being a true son of the North East and an ardent fan of Newcastle United, it was, in fact, the Yorkshire Dales that gave Nevin a place to explore his passions.
He threw himself into community life, becoming chair of Governors at Summerbridge School as well serving on the Parish Council and chairing the village hall committee.
However, it was his lifelong love of the theatre which blossomed in retirement, and for the Millennium he debuted the Nidderdale Mystery Plays, beginning his long association as a playwright and director with Pateley Bridge Playhouse.
A natural dramatist, Nevin had a rare gift for telling complex and factual histories of Nidderdale through the dialogue of the characters he created.
He was also a consummate actor, taking to the stage himself in many productions.
Music was a fundamental part of Nevin’s life, both as a composer and performer.
It was an interest that started whilst singing with the Salvation Army as a young boy and evolved into a deep love of English folk music, eventually leading him to help organise the first ever Scarborough Folk Festival.
As a composer, Nevin’s superb songwriting ability formed an integral part of his storytelling, with his original songs forming the spine of all of his plays, including his celebrated adaptations of The Wind In The Willows and A Christmas Carol.
In recent years he transformed his passion for the Sheffield Carols into highly popular Christmas concerts.
As a guitarist and singer, he often played fundraising concerts, first with Christine, and then with his daughter Rae to universal praise.
Nevin’s talent and body of work leaves a rich legacy.
Yet often someone’s success is more accurately judged by their imprint on those around them.
In this respect, Nevin’s legacy goes far beyond his natural talent as he was loved by so many.
Jerry Harvey, a close friend from the Playhouse, said, “It would be hard to find a more open-hearted and loveable man.
"His warmth, charisma and friendliness shone through every room he was in, drawing people towards him.
"The sheer joy of his company will be remembered by all who knew him.”
The range of Nevin’s achievements was deeply significant, but his devotion to his family stood above all else and gave him his greatest pride and joy. A family man to his core,
Nevin is survived by his wife of 57 years Christine, son Simon, daughter Rae, grandchildren Ashley, Brenna and Jaxom, and great granddaughter Mira.
A Service of Celebration to commemorate Nevin’s life will be held at St Cuthbert’s Church in Pateley Bridge on Friday, February 9 at 2pm.
Nevin Ward: July 25, 1944 – December 20, 2023