Ivor Dartnall-Smith was a Salvation Army Captain, by trade, he was a Master Builder, he worked hard to support his wife and family of six children. After they moved to Winchester both Ivor and Mavis joined full-time the Salvation Army and following their application, they were accepted for training as Officers.
In 1969 Ivor became conscious of the fact that one of his daughters was not walking properly. This led to members of the family travelling to the Royal Free Hospital in London to be tested by Professor P.K. Thomas where it was diagnosed that Ivor, his mother and several of his children were affected by Charcot-Marie-Tooth.
Ivor and Mavis continued at various Salvation Army Corps throughout England, and then in 1974 they applied for Overseas Missionary Service. In 1975 they were posted to a leprosy hospital in South India where Ivor was to be the Superintendent. By this time, Ivor needed arm crutches to walk and many felt that he might be taking on far too much by going to work abroad. However, being Ivor, he simply found practical solutions around his physical disability so that he could achieve what he felt called to do. The large compound where their hospital was situated was very sandy terrain and made walking extremely difficult. Ivor overcame this by utilising a rickshaw, buying a young buffalo and making himself a cart to transport him around the compound.
Whilst in India Ivor devoted his time to passing on his skills as a builder and teaching the leprosy patients, a trade that would mean they could earn a wage and not have to beg to survive because of their disabilities. The patients respected the fact that Ivor was helping them and showing by example. They could see first hand that if he could overcome his physical weakness then they too could also overcome their various disabilities.
Whilst Ivor and Mavis were in India there was a devastating cyclone and tidal wave, Ivor’s dedicated relief work helped to save hundreds of lives.
Eventually, after a few years, because of the heat, illness and progression of CMT, Ivor and Mavis decided to return to England. In 1985 Ivor was seen by a neurologist who mentioned to him that he had been contacted by a Canadian lady Linda Crabtree about a support group for sufferers of Charcot-Marie-Tooth in Canada. Ivor contacted Linda and following chats with her he felt compelled to start a similar group for people with the condition in the UK. Initially the group had very few members and newsletters were a very small affair.
Ivor worked hard to raise awareness about CMT and the support group; contacting doctors, speaking publicly on radio stations and gradually following Garden Sales, Jumble Sales, Cake Stalls etc he began to spread the word, raise funds and make contact with other affected people and their families. He endeavoured to do his best to assist medical people to recognise the condition and around this time, he arranged for all his children and other family members affected by CMT to gather at his home, where specialist doctors came to take blood from everyone in order to further research into the disease.
He continued to raise awareness for CMT and also decided that he would use his talent to raise funds for the group. Ivor was an amazing artist who loved to put his art work up for ‘donations’ and many homes throughout the world are blessed by a picture lovingly painted by him.
Any opportunity that Ivor had to raise awareness he would take, at a fancy dress parade at the village fete he would decorate both himself and his wheelchair with a variety of themes over the years including: Ivor the Engine and Ivor the Cowboy and he would proceed to rattle the tin to raise some funds.
The CMT Group remained close to Ivor’s heart and he continued to help in whatever way he could, whether it be through his art, simply collecting old stamps, or however the opportunity arose. Ivor was so happy when others came forward to move the group forward and to take up where he left off due to his own health problems. Watching his own children adapting to living their lives from wheelchairs as their condition progressed made Ivor aware of the problems that could arise, as well as experiencing his own deteriorating health matters.
Ivor was a devoted family man who dearly loved his wife, his children and their families.
He touched the lives of so many both in India and the UK. Many people will remember him for his kindness, sincerity and his wonderful sense of humour. His life and his values made all the difference to those he met.
Written by Ivor’s daughter, Miriam Forster.
Ivor died in 2012, followed by Mavis in 2013.