Norah Cook

Co-author of a schoolbook that inspired prisoners
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The Independent Online

Ten years ago, at the age of 86, Norah Cook, a retired Classics teacher, wrote a book which is now in the libraries of almost every prison in Britain. Hand on My Shoulder (1995), co- authored with Vera Frampton, has become an inspiration for many inmates.

Norah Merrett, writer and schoolteacher: born Dublin 5 July 1909; married 1960 Ron Cook (died 1989); died Bristol 16 April 2005.

Ten years ago, at the age of 86, Norah Cook, a retired Classics teacher, wrote a book which is now in the libraries of almost every prison in Britain. Hand on My Shoulder (1995), co- authored with Vera Frampton, has become an inspiration for many inmates.

Subtitled "True Stories of How God Communicates with Us Today", the book retails individual personal experiences from all over the world - the testimonies of a Russian dissident, a Japanese leper, a South African drug addict, a burglar in London. It was originally produced at the request of schools - and contains an illuminating section on children's reactions to the ups and downs of family life ("I think it is very important to find time to be on your own and to reflect on whatever has happened. Through that you confront your own memories and your own heart" - Peter, aged 16). But before long it was also being sent to prisons throughout Britain, as well as other parts of Europe and Africa, where chaplains discovered the simple and direct stories of faith and spiritual discovery were proving popular with the occupants of their cells.

Requests for more copies of the book began flooding into Norah Cook's home in Bristol and packages were despatched almost every weekend to prison chaplains. Letters of thanks came from the chaplains and sometimes the prisoners themselves.

Hand on My Shoulder was the last of a series of inspirational books Cook wrote or co-wrote in the years after her retirement from teaching. In 1970 she wrote We're All Looking for Something and in 1973 Family and Kinship, a textbook for schools which sold 7,000 copies. With Vera Frampton, who had been editor of Religious Education and Social Studies for Blandford Press, she also wrote Guidelines for Today (1990), which put the Ten Commandments into a modern context.

Cook's writing stemmed from a passionate commitment to young people and to education and was based on her own firm and unstinting faith. She was a long-time supporter of the Oxford Group, later to become Moral Re-Armament - which she first met in the 1930s. The daughter of a former soldier in the Wiltshire Regiment, Fred Merrett, who became a Methodist minister, she was born in Dublin in 1909 and graduated in Classics at Birmingham University, afterwards taking a Certificate of Education. There followed a career in teaching which included posts at Canton High School for Boys in Cardiff, King's Norton Grammar School for Girls in Birmingham and, in 1955, an appointment as Head of Classics at the newly opened Corby Grammar School. Four years later she became Deputy Head.

In 1960, after marrying Ron Cook, a sales rep, she moved to Bristol, where she continued to teach A-Level Latin and Greek at the Bristol Cathedral School and Henbury Comprehensive. She kept in regular touch with a wide circle of friends and pupils, despite increasing frailty in later years.

Stan Hazell



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