Tributes to Betty Smalley, Sheffield Woman of Inspiration and founder of the Friends of Firth Park

Tributes have been paid following the death of a popular member of the community who, among many things, founded the Friends of Firth Park and was recognised as an Outstanding Woman of Inspiration.

Monday, 25th February 2019, 11:49 am
Updated Monday, 25th February 2019, 11:52 am
Betty Smalley accepting her award for Outstanding Woman of the Year with then Lord Mayor Jackie Drayton and Joslyn Hoyle-Smith. Photo by: Paul David Drabble

Betty Smalley was a friend to many as well as a founder of Save the Firth Park Clock Tower campaign and Hope Allotments, member of Sheffield CND, Green City Action and Burngreave Forum and local treasurer for Amnesty International. She was also instrumental in starting Abbeyfield and Firth Park festivals where she ran her famous ‘Betty’s Tea Stall’.

She was also titled Sheffield’s Outstanding Women of Inspiration at the age of 76.

Firth Park Festival family beach party. Betty Smalley with Karen Gommersall, Doreen Green, Elizabeth Gommersall and Angela Hardy.

Betty was born in Page Hall in 1930. She married young and had a son, Peter, and daughter, Kay and lived in the city her whole life.

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She helped set up the Friends of Firth Park after the Bowling Club raised concerns about the area looking run down and littered.

It started out with things including a tool shed, second hand clothes shop and groups for disabled people and adult educational classes. Now the park is thriving with events and new facilities.

During her working life, she took roles as an optician’s receptionist at the Co-op and worked for the gas board. But her real passion was bettering the community and campaigning against injustice.

Betty's Tea Tent

She protested against nuclear weapons up and down the country including at Greenham Common and famously laid down in front of Firth Park Clock Tower to save from being taken down.

Friend Steve Cook, said: “We thought it was quite ironic that Donald Trump had to wait for Betty to die before he announced his second visit.”

Sheena Clarke, another of Betty’s best friends, said: “She was a also great baker. I first met her when she was doing Betty’s Tea Tents, she run them at festivals in the parks around Sheffield.

“She was lovely, a really loyal and good friend. She was also very passionate about injustice and always tried to make a difference and improve things, whether it was about nuclear weapons or the environment or being inclusive of everybody.”

Betty Smalley pictured with fellow keep fit enthusiasts Cynthia Brittain, Barbara Butler and Susan Lawrence

Betty also enjoyed history, knitting and crocheting, Sheena added: “Her flat was full of bags of wool and craft things.”

Friend Maggie Hoyles, of Friends of Firth Park, said: “She was lovely, she loved this area as well and loved the park and was full of stories. We shall miss her.”

Betty once met the Queen to accept the £52 million New Deal on behalf of Burngreave, which was invested into the area over a period of 10 years. She was also a member of the 40s and 50s group at Firth Park, a group of women who are now in their 80s and do regular trips around the country and meetings.

Cynthia Brittain, chair of the group, said: “She was very intelligent our Betty. She was a good friend to me….I can’t believe she’s gone.

Betty Smalley in her tea tent in Firth Park

“She knew what was going off in the world and she was part of lots of different clubs.”

Betty passed away on 21st January at the age of 88 at Royal Hallamshire Hospital.

Her funeral was held at 2.45pm, on Thursday 14th, February at Hutcliffe Wood. People were encouraged to wear purple and/or a red hat.

Betty’s children made the arrangements and her daughter read the poem ‘Warning’ by Jenny Joseph, the first stanza of which goes:

“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple

With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.

And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves

And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.

I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired

And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells

And run my stick along the public railings

And make up for the sobriety of my youth.”