Norman Irving
Norman Irving - Founder and Chairman of Hashinokai
April 1917 - January 2007

Mike Burnett Writes

Dear all at Hashi no kai,

I'm sorry to say I've only just heard about Norman passing away. I'm very sad to learn the news, especially having briefly known Norman in his latter years at the club and even having visited his home on one occasion. I haven't been to Hashi no Kai for several months but will try and pop in again soon.

I really hope Hashi no Kai can prosper as a tribute to all Norman's hard work and vision,

             Mike .

Charles Rudd Writes

As many of you will know, for something like thirty years Norman ran an Anglo-Japanese language and social club called Hashi no Kai.

He set this up in 1974, with the help of fellow-students, when he was studying Japanese at an evening class at what was then the Polytechnic of Central London.
The idea was to offer members an opportunity to practise conversational Japanese, or (in the case of the Japanese members) conversational English, in an informal atmosphere,thus complementing the more formal setting of the classroom. Equally, the social side of the club complemented the more formal diplomatic and business-oriented contacts between this country and Japan. Over the years the venue changed, sometime quite frequently, but mostly the club met in upstairs rooms, or sometimes the basement, of pubs in central London. I think the best venue the club had was in the basement of premises at No. 72 Newman Street, W1, thanks to Len Martin, where Norman had a freer hand than he had in a pub. Norman took personal charge of the club: he never lost sight of the language elemnt, so that it never became a general social club, valuable though that would have been.
Norman was not one to throw his weight about, and he had good reason to be quietly proud of his achievement in establishing the club and running it for so many years. In 2004 Hasi no Kai celebrated its 30th anniversary, and it is still running.

On a more personal note, I shall always remember Norman for his wide general knowledge, acquired during the course of a long and evenful life, which included service in the Second World War; and also for his resilience and inner resourcefulness.
He went through some difficult patches in his life, but he always managed to pick himself up and carry on.

Where that resilience came from I do not know, but I admired him for it.

Shirley Hall Writes

I met Norman many times at Hashi-no-Kai.
I hadn't seen here for a while, I think the last time was at Peter Halls' New Year's day party, some years ago. Norman has always kept in touch with me however.
My best memories are of the evenings at his flat in Peabody Mansions, I think in 1980, when a small group of 4 or 5 of us met there for private Japanese lessons, after our class at Pimlico School folded. Norman arranged for a Japanese girl tutor and we studied in a friendly atmosphere. Norman seemed very happy in his flat and made refreshments for us all during a break.

I am very sorry to hear of Norman's death and send condolences to his family.

Peter Halls Writes

I met Norman in 1972 at the Japanese evening class at the London Nautical School, run by Okuma san.
I remember there were also Brian Clasey, Don Cameron, three policemen, and a lady of indeterminate age, but definitely not young, known as Winifred Young, or Yoon san. There were probably others. One class ended early so we could go to the party of a friend of Okuma san. We got to the door, and I peered inside past Norman, and the room was full of Japanese girls who were beckoning us in. Norman declined the invitation, and I couldn't get past him. My feelings towards him were not mellow.

It was however Norman who introduced me to my next class, at Red Lion Square, Holborn, to the only class there not run by Mr Parker. Kikuko san was the teacher, I don't remember her surname, and among others in the class were Len Martin, Owen Fasely, and Chris, surname forgotten, all of whom married Japanese girls.
We later shared a class in Pimlico. It was then I started to go to Hashi no Kai. I was not a founder member, but soon became a regular visitor to the basement in Newman Street, under Len Martin's offices. Gradually children and other toils took over my life, and I left off going. However, every year I had a party on New Year's Day, and Norman always came.
I didn't go back to Hashi no Kai until 1991, when I had just finished a course on Teaching English as a Foreign Language, and I was looking for some material to practise on. I asked Norman, who was round for the New Year Party, if I could run a free class at Hashi no Kai. Hashi no Kai was at the time in the doldrums, meeting in a rather grotty >small room in Conway Hall. The half dozen people who attended all took part in the class, which occupied the first hour of the meeting. Gradually the numbers increased, and we moved to a larger room, then to a pub on High Holborn, and the class became more of a side show to the larger social gathering. Norman had to change the night of the club to one I couldn't make, so I stopped going.

For many years, he came to my New Year's Day gathering, until his health prevented him. He continued to be active in Hashi no Kai. I visited his flat a few times, and was always made to feel welcome.

It was during his later years that he met the Queen, and I still have the Christmas card he sent with him shaking her hand.