Tributes paid to dedicated Emsworth councillor who lived an interesting and varied life

TRIBUTES are being paid to a councillor who served Emsworth’s community for 12 years, and her varied life full of adventure.

Tuesday, 28th January 2020, 4:23 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th January 2020, 10:13 am
Virginia Wilson-Smith pictured in 2003 after hearing that she was victorious in the Emsworth Ward. PICTURE: MALCOLM WELLS (032161-23)

Virginia Wilson-Smith died on Wednesday, January 22, aged 90. She was a Conservative councillor for the Emsworth ward of Havant Borough Council for 12 years until 2011.

Waterlooville-born Virginia was at the forefront of the creation of the Emsworth Memorial Gardens in the Horndean Road recreation, and served on the environment and community board at the council.

Writing in 2012 at the age of 82, Virginia said: ‘I am proud to have been a councillor and particularly of being instrumental in getting a memorial for Emsworth which strangely didn’t have a proper one.’

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Taking the helm - Virginia Wilson-Smith pictured during her sailing days.

Living out her final years in a residential home was a stark contrast to a life which had seen the keen sailor on adventures across the world.

Gordon Lang, who is married to Virginia’s niece, said: ‘She was a very intelligent lady, she always said she wanted to go to university when she was younger but her family stopped her.

‘She was a very worldly-wise lady, it was such a shame that she ended her life with this awful vascular dementia.’

In the 1950s, Virginia helped her first husband build a racing dinghy which won several championships, and maintained her love of sailing throughout her life, taking trips with her friend Eleanor Tims.

Virginia Wilson-Smith (left) pictured with David Gillett in 2007 with her victory in Emsworth ward with 1999 votes and a majority of 1165 PICTURE: MALCOLM WELLS (071838-74)

Her voyages included sailing the Baltic from Scotland to Norway, navigating the western coast of the United States of America to Alaska, and touring the Cape Verde Islands.

Another love of Virginia’s life was the theatre, she used to be a stage manager travelling to different theatres around the country.

She bought an empty building in North End with friend Brian Hillier, which they converted into an arts centre known as the Hornpipe, before joining another friend, John Offord, in forming Apollo Theatre.

A varied working life also saw Virginia in roles including at the family business, carpet and brush-making firm John Palmer’s, and working as a radiographer, but it was her time in retirement which was most interesting.

Tributes have been paid to Virginia Wilson-Smith

Speaking to The News in 1999, Virginia said: ‘I think I’ve done more mad things in the last eight years than I have done in my entire life.’

(left) Virginia Wilson-Smith (80), with (right) Brian Edwards-Picknett pictured in 2010 at the 'Absence' sculpture in the Emsworth Memorial Garden Picture: Malcolm Wells (102551-1226)