Friday the 26th of February

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“We need a respectful, mutual listening, free of ideology and predetermined agendas.” Pope Francis, Let us Dream, December 2020

Goddaughter of the Venerable Margaret Sinclair passes away at the age of 96

The Archdiocese of St Andrews & Edinburgh is saddened to learn of the death of Norah Smith, goddaughter of the Venerable Margaret Sinclair, at the age of 96.

“Norah was born in 1920, the last of nine children. Her family lived near the Sinclairs in Blackfriars Street, and Margaret was asked to be her godmother, a relationship which Norah always treasured,” explained Monsignor Philip Kerr, Norah’s parish priest at St Patrick’s in Edinburgh’s Cowgate, on 9th August.

“Norah was a faithful member of St Patrick’s parish throughout all her life, never living outwith the parish except for a short period in World War II, when she worked in a munition factory in Birmingham.”

Providentially, Norah’s death came as a new play charting the life of her godmother opened at St Patrick’s as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“Margaret is with me every day. I pray to her every day. She’s part of my life. I’m so blessed to have her as my godmother,” said Norah in a media interview in August last year.

“Our family were neighbours with the Sinclairs at 13 Blackfriars Street in the Cowgate,” explained Norah.

“When I was born, Mrs Sinclair came to visit my mother to say that she had two daughters who would make wonderful godmothers – Margaret and her sister Bella. My mother chose Margaret.”

The Venerable Margaret Sinclair was born in Cowgate in Edinburgh’s Old Town in 1900, one of six children who grew up in poverty in a two-room basement. Her father was dustman and she left school at 14, where she worked as a French polisher and became a trade union activist.

In 1923 the Venerable Margaret entered a Convent of the Order of Poor Clares in London, becoming Sister Mary Francis of the Five Wounds, where she helped the poor before dying of tuberculosis in 1925. She was declared “Venerable” by the Catholic Church in 1978 – two steps away from sainthood.

Among Norah’s most treasured possessions was her christening shawl from 1920, a crucifix given to her family by Margaret Sinclair upon departure for London and a Christmas card sent “to my dear godchild” from Margaret’s convent.

The Requiem Mass for Norah Smith will take place at St Patrick’s at 11am, Tuesday 16th August. The reception of her body will be at 6.30pm the evening prior, Monday 15th August. May she rest in peace.

Photo: Archbishop Cushley with Norah Smith at her home in Edinburgh’s Cowgate, August 2015.