Nora Peach

Obituary of Nora Peach

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Nora Peach, 91, died peacefully at Digby General Hospital on Thursday, 23 May 2024, after a short illness.


Nora Tomlinson was born on 17 September 1932 at Rough Lee Maternity Home in Accrington near Oswaldtwistle, Lancashire, England, the first child of Rowland Tomlinson, a boiler engineer, and his wife Nellie Greenwood.  Growing up in Oswaldtwistle in the 1930s and 1940s, she was part of a musical family of aunts, uncles, cousins and siblings who were very active in the local Methodist community and its amateur music scene. 


Nora is survived by her four younger siblings, Joy Margerison, Castle Douglas, Scotland; Keith (Shirley), Derbyshire, England; Lawrence (Heather) Cumbria, England; and John (Moya), Sussex, England, all of whom are accomplished musicians.


After completing her studies at Accrington High School for Girls, Nora attended C F Mott Training College in Prescot, Lancashire, where she trained to be a teacher.  Nora loved school and particularly college, where she had her own room at the dormitory and studied music and crafts. 


Her first teaching post in 1952 was at a junior school in Salford, Manchester, where she taught 8-9-year-olds, travelling to Salford each day from her parents’ home in Oswaldtwistle.  In 1953 she became engaged to Fred Peach, a textile chemist, whom she had known since 1950 when they were both in the choir at Mount Pleasant Methodist Chapel.  After marrying in 1954, Nora and Fred lived near Littleborough for a year and Nora taught at two other schools, at Whitworth and at Bamford.  In 1955 they moved to Norden, Rochdale, where their first two children, Martin and Alison, were born.


In 1960, Nora moved with Fred’s job to South Wales, and a very happy time followed living in Abergavenny, Monmouthshire, where daughters Judith and Kate were born.  Nora and Fred continued their musical activities which would be a hallmark of their life together.  They first joined a madrigal group, then the Gwent Bach Society, and Nora’s excellent keyboard skills were put to good use as pianist for a performance of The Little Sweep by Benjamin Britten, given by the local private boys’ school.  They became good friends with the minister of the Methodist Church, Cyril Hambly (1931-99), a pianist and composer with whom Nora played the piano duet accompaniment to Brahms’ Liebeslieder Waltz at a local concert.


In 1965 Fred was seconded back to Lancashire, so the family moved to Accrington for a year before emigrating to Canada in July 1966.  From 1966 to 1969 they lived in Sorel, Quebec, where they attended Christ Church, the town’s Anglican Church, both singing in the choir. 


In 1969 Fred’s job took him to Montreal and the family moved to Otterburn, a suburb on the city’s South Shore.  Here they lived for 18 years, and their signature double act - Nora as pianist / organist, Fred as choir conductor - was established at Anglican and United Churches in Otterburn and nearby Beloeil/McMasterville.  Nora was highly valued by these communities, and made many good friends with whom she stayed in contact for the rest of her life.


On first arriving in Otterburn, Nora taught at Mountainview Elementary School, studying for a Special Education diploma at Montreal’s McGill University and then tutoring in Special Education at the school. 


After leaving teaching in 1974, Nora became increasingly involved in women’s and social justice issues.  In 1983 she travelled to the Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue on Development (CCIDD) in Mexico with a Canada-wide United Church group, and in 1984 organised another trip there.  In 1985 she went on a three-week trip to Russia with another United Church group, and to Nicaragua as part of the first Canadian Witness for Peace visit there.  Also around that time, Nora was on an Outreach Committee in Montreal, preparing meals for the homeless at Labre House once a week.  Nora enjoyed and felt valued in this varied work, and it meant a lot to her to contribute as much as she could to making the world a better place.


After Fred retired from Celanese Canada and was working part-time from home as a textile consultant, Nora and Fred moved from their suburban home to a chalet-style house in rural Mansonville in Quebec’s Eastern Townships.  As well as enjoying gardening and landscaping their 16 acres, Nora reprised her role as pianist / organist at various United and Anglican churches in the area, through which she again made many lifelong friends.  She continued organising trips to the CCIDD in Mexico, and in 1992 was part of a small women’s group at the Anglican cathedral in Montreal who took part in a Worldwide Anglican Encounter conference in Brazil as part of the Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women 1988-1998.  After her return she wrote articles about her experiences for Groundswell, the United Church newsletter focussing on the Decade.


In 1996, when Fred was 70, he finished his textile consultancy and they moved to Nova Scotia, remembering many happy family holidays and visits to friends there.  Their first home in NS was on Old Post Road, Clementsport, where Nora became involved with New St Edward’s and then Old St Edward’s Churches.  Two years later they moved to Robicheau Road on Digby Neck.  Here Nora’s attention shifted from social justice to environmental issues and away from the church for a while.  She was a founding member and first president of the Clements Historical Society; a member of Digby Neck’s Green Committee, which promoted the use of home Green Cones for composting instead of Green Cart collection, through which she met good friend artist Carol Mahtab; and, with Carol, became involved in the Southwest Nova Biosphere Reserve and Don Rice’s Tobeatic Group. 


In 2001 Nora travelled to Quebec City to participate in protests at the Third Summit of the Americas which were organised by the Council of Canadians.  The same year she formed, with Carol Mahtab and others, the Stop the Quarry Group to fight against a proposed basalt quarry with shipping terminal (for transport to the US) at White Cove near Little River, Digby Neck.  The group was instrumental in bringing about the abandonment of the proposal, and the quiet historic cove was saved.  Other environmental projects followed, along with playing for Rossway Baptist Church (2006-2011 and 2014-2020).  In 2006 she started to serve on the Planning Advisory Committee and the Heritage Advisory Committee for the Municipality of the District of Digby, and was one of the core demonstrators who were a familiar sight on Saturdays in Annapolis holding signs protesting the invasion of Iraq by the US. 


2007 saw the first of Nora’s Digby Neck wall calendars, which featured her own original photography and continued through 2011 when she moved back to Clementsport; from 2015 she continued the tradition with her Lower Annapolis Valley calendars until the last calendar was produced for 2022.  The move to Clementsport had been driven by the construction of a wind farm near their home on Digby Neck, which she and others had fought, but finally failed to prevent. 


Not long after the move, Fred died, and Nora started a new phase of her life in her historic home with her daughter Judith, who had moved back to Canada from Vermont in 2006.  After restoring the house, Nora and Judith worked on clearing the land and establishing a productive garden.  Nora’s long interest in photography continued unabated, and family and friends were showered with pictures of historic and natural scenes in the area, as well as the much-anticipated annual calendar.


During these years, Nora made regular visits to her family back home in England.  She loved Canada, but never broke her ties to her home country.  She continued to enjoy life, and was bright and active both physically and mentally, until the few short weeks of her final illness.


Nora is survived by her daughters Alison (who lives in Wiltshire, England), Judith (Clementsport) and Kate (Bragg Creek AB).  Her first child Martin predeceased her in 2021. She has two grandchildren, Kate’s sons Owain (Vancouver BC) and Liam (Bragg Creek AB).  Her daughters will be coming together in Nova Scotia to spread her ashes.

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