Tributes paid to former Haslemere mayor

Moyra Finlay

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Moyra Finlay, the mayor of Haslemere in 1983-84, a dedicated advocate for the environment, opera and healthcare, and instigator of twinning of Bernay with Haslemere, died peacefully in Bramshott Grange Nursing Home after more than half a century of dedication to the quality of life in Haslemere.

Before moving to Haslemere, she joined the Foreign Office working in accounts and as cypher clerk.

In 1953 she married Bernard Finlay, who later was to become a county court judge. 

In 1953 and 1954 she was offered a starring role in operas by Pagliacci and Puccini, but had to withdraw from both for reasons of health. 

In 1958 she helped found the Hampstead and Highgate Consumer Group and as a result of her community work in London, in 1962 she was appointed to the Consumer Council of Great Britain.

For health reasons she moved to Haslemere from Hampstead in 1964.

Low-flying commercial aircraft caused disturbance in Haslemere in 1967 and Moyra became secretary of the Haslemere Aircraft Disturbance Action Group (HADG).

And in 1972, environmental issues in the town moved to the ground when the Haslemere Environment Group was formed to object to plans to build a major road through Haslemere to ease congestion on the A3 at Hindhead crossroads.

Moyra became the secretary of this society which successfully proposed alternative plans to build a tunnel to relieve Hindhead crossroads.

This came to fruition in 2011 – and this week celebrated its tenth anniversary (see Page 34).

The Haslemere Environment Group amalgamated with the Haslemere Preservation Society to form the present Haslemere Society and Moyra’s good work moved to arboreal matters; indeed, she became known as ‘ The Tree Lady of Haslemere’.

Moyra had the vision to ensure a new tree was planted in the town centre.

This will eventually replace the ancient chestnut tree near the Georgian Hotel that is susceptible to disease.

It is thanks to Moyra that the town has landscaping at Haslemere Station and the Swan Barn Walk leading from the High Street to Blackdown.

Moyra also developed the Well Lane Walk which involved the restoration of the town well in Well Lane.

She so wanted local people to be aware of and to have access to the amazing landscapes so close to the town centre.

Moyra was membership secretary for South West Surrey Conservatives and initiated a new method of reminding tardy voters to make it to the polling station; telephone chains rather than knocking on doors. This led to successful and somewhat unexpected result with the election of Virginia Bottomley. This method has largely been adopted.

In 1981, Moyra was elected to Haslemere Town Council, representing the Conservative Party.

She became town mayor from 1983 to 1984.

During this time she hosted the mayor and clerk of Bernay in Normandy on their first exploratory visit.

This led to the twinning of Bernay with Haslemere.

After her time as mayor, Moyra was appointed as Waverley Borough Council’s representative on the Guildford Community Health Council and progressed to become vice-chairman and Community Health Council representative for the south eastern region.

She also served as vice-chairman of the Royal Surrey County Hospital research ethics committee and represented the hospital at the Kings Fund.

In her 90s Moyra was still working on behalf of quality of care in the National Health Service by serving on the South West Surrey Network for Older People.

After being mayor, Moyra was also able to resurrect her practical interest in opera.

In 1984, she met Geoffrey Ramsden, who was treasurer of Opera Omnibus, and became general administrator and casting director in 1988.

Opera Omnibus, now Opera South, thrives to this day and Moyra was instrumental in paving the way to the quality of the productions.

Moyra was a very kind lady who helped many young people at crucial moments in their lives.

She had a great appreciation for the quality of life in Haslemere, coupled to a massive commitment to preserve the unique environment, heritage and culture of the area.

Elizabeth Heggart

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