George Brown: 1936 – 2023

We are sorry to announce that George Brown has passed away. The following obituary is courtesy of George’s friend and fellow Trinity Hall alumnus.

George Brown born was born in Cheshire on the 20 September 1936 and died on the 9 December 2023. Since his wife Sue now sadly suffers from ill health there was a small private funeral on the 3 January this year, but his son and daughter plan to hold a thanksgiving party shortly before the start of Henley Regatta next June in the Leander Club where George was president for some years.

He was a big man in every respect, with a twinkling eye and a wonderful wit. He was educated at Shrewsbury School where he rowed in the Henley crew which won the Princess Elizabeth Cup in 1955.

For national service he served in the Royal Navy where he was commissioned as a Temporary Midshipman RNVR (the nearest the navy could come to admitting through clenched teeth that he was actually an officer of some kind). There he served in HMS Loch Killisport, a frigate with a distinguished history (the Duke of Edinburgh served in her shortly after the war), where life was not without interest but duty consisted largely of patrols in the unrelenting heat of the Persian Gulf.

He came up to Trinity Hall in 1957, ostensibly to read law but really (as many of his friends suspected) to row. He got his first blue in the 1959 boat race and then led the crew in 1960 as president of the CUBC. The Daily Telegraph described him as the best number 5 since the war but unhappily Oxford were in the ascendent at the time, winning both races. However, in 1960 George and his crew gave their opponents an exceedingly tough race, being in contention right up to near the finish.

Richard Devitt recalls racing in a comparatively modest Hall May boat that summer with two other freshmen (David Burgess and Nigel Southward) and George. He says that George was such a wonderful crewmate and inspiration to the others that they only got bumped once! Because of his ability combined with his considerable height and weight he was a superb oarsman, but he was also an outstandingly neat and successful sculler. He was able to row in almost any position in a four or an eight, but he also won most of the small boat races on the Cam.

On going down George married Sue and took a job with ICI as a management trainee, living near Henley. There, his distinguished position as an ex-CUBC President made him highly likely to be selected to become a Henley steward, as in due course he was. That was something which gave him very considerable pleasure throughout the remainder of his life, and he ended his days as the senior steward of the club.

After working for ICI for some years he then became CEO of a valve manufacturing company in South Wales where he lived with his family in a lovely house called The Grondra, to the west of Chepstow. After that, he became a partner in an M&A advisory boutique in London. George and Sue had by then moved to Brockenhurst in the New Forest, and then later they moved again to the Isle of Wight where they greatly enjoyed sailing their 33-foot yacht. George was for many years a member of the Royal Yacht Squadron, so it was most convenient that they lived in a comfortable duplex flat in Cowes, just up the hill from the Castle and only a few yards from the back gate.

After some years of getting to know the island and its people George started doing a bit of canvassing for the Tories, having an engaging personality and being the sort of person who talked happily to anyone and everyone. He was then asked if he would stand as a candidate for the local council in what appeared to be a distinctly unpromising and left-leaning district, with a well-embedded trade unionist currently occupying the seat. George felt extremely sorry for his opponent when, to everyone’s surprise including his own, he won the forthcoming election. (He later confided to his friends that he much preferred his opponent to most of the people in his own local party).

Recently, with both George and Sue in failing health, they were persuaded by their daughter Belinda to come and move to a retirement home in Sherborne, not far from where she lived with her family. What no one then realised was that in caring for Sue, George had grievously neglected his own health. Sadly, an undiagnosed melanoma lead to his own swift decline and comparatively sudden death shortly before Christmas.

He was a lovely man, who will be sorely missed by his many friends both on and off the water.