id1888-Noel Noble 1923 -2017

Written by David Barrington   

Noel Noble 31.12.1923 – 25.6.2017

The Club is very sad to learn of the death of International Opera Singer and longtime Polytechnic Harriers and Veterans AC middle distance competitor, Noel Noble, at the end of June after a fine innings of over 94 years.

A native of Melbourne, Australia, Noel Alfred Noble toyed with a career in accountancy but boxing, athletics and singing appealed to him more after schooldays. He had pretentions as a middle distance runner and often in later years in the UK expressed an opinion that he could have matched John Landy, who was just pipped to the first sub 4 minute Mile in 1954 by Roger Bannister. However, Noel had been in the Australian Air Force in the War when Japan bombed Darwin and he subsequently suffered from what we now know as PTSD. He did though attract the attention of an internationally-known bass baritone, Horace Stevens and this set him on his course as an opera singer. He trained at Melbourne University Conservatorium and was appointed a professional soloist at St Pauls Cathedral, Melbourne. After marriage at the Cathedral to Joy, they decided to come to Europe to further his career, and having toned down his ‘Strine’ accent, on advice, he went on to perform at the Albert Hall, Sadler's Wells, Glyndebourne and several Continental opera houses as a bass baritone. At the Albert Hall in 1974, the first Messiah From Scratch was performed by singers and choirs from across the UK and Noel was one of the four professional singers invited to take part.

As well as his many professional appearances, Noel was always very willing to perform for the love of it at Club functions, both by arrangement and on an impromptu basis. He actually sang at this writer’s wedding reception in 1975.

As an athlete in the UK, in the 1970s/1980s,he was very supportive of both Poly and VAC and, although his running career in the UK never reached great heights, he would invariably be present to complete his club teams, not least at cross country events. He contributed to VAC on and off the arena, and was their TM/Organiser when they set a World Best for the then-popular 100 x 1 Mile Relay at Crystal Palace, causing other overseas veterans clubs to challenge their achievement.

Sadly, Noel was felled by a stroke in his 60s, but with the loving care of Joy, he made a near recovery, and he was able to continue with his beloved music, as a singing teacher.

With Joy (Joyce), a Western Australian from Perth with British antecedents, and his former secretary, they made their London home in Chiswick, very near to the Poly Club’s then HQ at the Polytechnic Stadium and when he retired, they moved to Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex, but still kept in contact with a few Club members. Joy sadly died some 10 years ago but Noel maintained a substantive independence for as long as he was able until just a few years before his passing.

Noel always approached every aspect of his life with a marvellous, engaging and talented robustness, with his strong Aussie personality reminiscent of some of the non-PC characters which his fellow Australian show-business performer Barry Humphries immortalised. He was also always ready to tell endless jokes and one-liners and was said to have a joke book larger than those of Charlie Chester and Tommy Cooper combined. He was a real character for sure.

Noel’s funeral took place in Hastings on August 14th and fellow contemporary Poly members Frank Prosser and Bruce Reekie attended and represented K&P.

David Barrington


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