Alan Haythornthwaite, who has died aged 71, was a leading figure in the field of sign language interpreting and a familiar figure at Disability Partnership Calderdale meetings, for several years, where his interpretation skills were put to good use.
The Guardian has produced an obituary which rightly reflects his expertise and popularity. We’ve published it in full below:
A gentle giant, he was widely regarded as being the best in his profession – by both deaf and hearing people – and was loved for his enigmatic smile and good humour.
Alan was born in Rossendale in Lancashire to Jack Hawthornthwaite and his wife, Alice (nee Hooley), who were both mill workers. They were also both deaf, which meant that their two sons’ first language was British sign language. He attended Fearns secondary school in Rossendale (1960-66) and in 1974 qualified as a social worker, moving first to Leicester and then to Yorkshire, where he joked that he was doing missionary work on behalf of his beloved Lancashire.
From 1980 to 1998 he was manager of the Bradford Centre for Deaf People. One of a small number of people to gain the newly established British sign language/English interpreter qualification in 1984, he later became a freelance interpreter, and consultant, until his death.
While at Bradford Alan co-founded the Deaf Broadcasting Campaign, which helped to bring about the use of subtitling and sign language on television, notably through the 1990 Broadcast Act. He also became treasurer of a memorial trust that was set up in honour of Peter Greenwood, deputy head of the Thorn Park School for Deaf Children in Bradford, who died in the Bradford football club fire of 1985.
Alan was an active supporter, generous with time and donations, of the Deaf Ex-Mainstreamers Group, a charity that campaigns for deaf children to have full access bilingually to the national school curriculum.
In addition he co-founded Visual Language Professionals, a group designed to provide support to British sign language interpreters and to promote the highest standards in sign language interpreting. It has now grown to a membership of more than 650.
In 1998 Alan married Carol King, who he knew from her time as secretary at the Bradford centre. She survives him, as do their four sons and six grandchildren.