I wish to pay tribute to a remarkable friend of mine who died on September 3: Harriet Dell, who lived in Halifax for several years, before moving to Stoke Newington in 2012.
Harriet was a descendant of Joseph Crossley, of Dean Clough fame. In 2000, with the assistance of Sheila Williams and others, she set up “The Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery,” with the aim of securing the future of a vandalised and vulnerable defunct Victorian graveyard in West Central Halifax. She was Hon. Secretary of the charity for twelve years, and she achieved wonders. What she gave in enthusiasm and hard work to the place was amazing. Having seen the graveyard made secure, she worked on the ground, also carrying out research, helping people with their family histories, setting up small exhibitions, and even organising a “Ben Rushton Festival”. When I became involved with the Cemetery Friends, I only accepted as they needed someone extra with a knowledge of local history. Soon, Harriet insisted I ought to stand for chairman of the group. I nearly turned this down; yet, I had such respect for Harriet, that I accepted. She gave me her utmost support, and I think we worked well together. Harriet’s achievements in other fields locally are well known – she was a great supporter of Square Chapel, and her artistic talents were varied and many. The fine historical tapestries in the porch of Halifax Minster, which she designed, are just one tangible memory of her creativity. Alongside her creativity, Harriet had the capacity to find time for people who needed advice and support, even when she was unwell herself. A dignified woman, she was also incredibly down-to-earth, generous, and a thoroughly reliable friend. Today, The Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery aim to go forward, inspired by what Harriet has achieved; currently we are installing new information boards and seats with the aid of an HLF grant. None of this would have been possible without our dear friend, Harriet Dell. On Ben Rushton’s tombstone at Lister Lane, are inscribed lines written by Robert Burns after the death of a friend. If I may amend these slightly, they might make a suitable epitaph for Harriet: “A friend of man, the friend of truth, The friend of age and guide of youth; Few hearts like hers - with virtue warmed, Few heads with knowledge so informed: If there’s another world, she lives in bliss; If there is none, she made the best of this.” Thank you so much, Harriet; we miss you and will not forget you; those of us who remain will aim to keep your name alive.
David C Glover
Chair, The Friends of Lister Lane Cemetery