Obituary: Sir David Woodbine Parish

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The Independent Culture
DAVID WOODBINE Parish would introduce himself to strangers with "I am a builder: my wife is an architect, but I am a builder". Both literally and metaphorically, this statement was true. He was a practical, working member of the building industry, and beyond this he was a builder of opportunities of doing good to others. He was a well- known figure in the City of London for more than 40 years - his involvement there and beyond many-faceted. His charitable service extended to technical education including medical education, to hospitals, to the welfare of the elderly, and to church music.

Woodbine Parish saw his widespread voluntary activities as a way of acknowledging and returning thanks for his privileged background and upbringing. He was properly proud of his descent from Sir Woodbine Parish, Knight Commander of the Order of Hanover - a diplomat who claimed sovereignty of the Falklands Islands for Britain - and of his education at Eton; and he never shirked in what he knew to be his duty to those less fortunate than he.

His career in the building industry began at Holliday and Greenwood, following a two-year period of training in textile and related engineering. He became a director in 1937 and chairman and managing director from 1953. In 1959 Woodbine Parish was appointed chairman of Bovis Limited. His retirement in 1966 allowed an expanded participation in charitable activites.

His sense of responsibility was nurtured through membership of the Worshipful Company of Clothworkers, 12th of the Great Twelve Livery Companies of the City of London, in which he served as a Warden, 1962-64, and as Master, 1974-75. The Clothworkers' Company was one of the original Founder Members, in 1878, of the City and Guilds of London Institute for the Advancement of Technical Education (now better known as City and Guilds). Through this connection, and because of his direct knowledge and experience of the building industry, Woodbine Parish was appointed to the Council of the institute in 1954.

One of his earliest contributions to the institute was to provide it with a new home. It was then housed in two rooms at Gresham College; the lease was due to expire in 1958. Woodbine Parish, as chairman of Holliday and Greenwood and Joint Honorary Secretary of the City and Guilds from 1957, supervised the design and construction of the new headquarters in Portland Place. The foundation stone was laid in February 1958.

Woodbine Parish's contribution to education and training was extensive: he served on the board of the Construction Industry Training Board from 1964-70, chaired the UK National Committee of the International Apprentice Competition, 1962-70 and was a member of the National Examinations Board for Supervisory Studies. To everything to which he set himself, Woodbine Parish committed himself wholeheartedly: he had been known to shed tears of effort and frustration in pursuit of a cherished objective.

He was Chairman at the City and Guilds for 12 years from 1967 - his chairmanship in the Centenary Year, with the associated celebrations, gave him particular pleasure. On retirement in 1979, he was appointed Life Vice-President by the Duke of Edinburgh, President of the City and Guilds, in recognition of his years of dedication and hard work - the only such appointment in 101 years.

From the 1950s to the 1980s there was hardly a body concerned with management and technological education, the development of institutions of higher education, and of hospitals and medical schools, in the City and Greater London, in which Woodbine Parish did not play a significant part. In particular he had a long association with St Thomas' Hospital, serving as Vice-Chairman of the Board from 1967 until 1974, and ensured the construction of a new outpatients' building during his eight years as chairman of the Rebuilding Committee. He also chaired the Council of the Medical School from 1970 to 1982.

The published record of his participation is long and honourable, but it cannot show the invaluable support which he gave behind the scenes to government and local government. Bringing together his building knowledge and medical experience, he chaired the Department of Health and Social Security Committee of Enquiry on Hospital Building Maintenance, in 1968- 70. In March 1972 he advised Margaret Thatcher (then Secretary of State for Education) in the negotiations leading up to the establishment of the Technician and Business Education Councils.

He was appointed CBE for his public services in 1964 and knighted in 1980. His contributions to the management of such a wide range of institutions were also recognised in the award of numerous fellowships and honorary degrees.

Woodbine Parish married Mona McGarel Johnston in 1939. Together they built their country home, the Glebe Barn, in Pulborough, West Sussex, where they were idyllically happy.

David Woodbine Parish - he was punctilious about there being no hyphen between his surnames and he disliked and ignored his second baptismal name of Elmer - set the highest standards of conduct; of dress; and in the presentations of papers. He found casual manners distasteful and an embarrassment. On City occasions he was invariably immaculate in short black coat, waistcoat, and striped trousers: his buttonhole often sported a rose or carnation from his own garden. His system for colour-coded highlighting of documents as an aid to speedy mastery of their contents will long be remembered by those in the Secretary's office at City and Guilds. It was always an unspoken regret that an affliction of the feet prevented him from military service in 1939-45.

Peter Stevens

David Elmer Woodbine Parish, builder, businessman and philanthropist: born London 29 June 1911; director, Holliday and Greenwood 1937-59, chairman and managing director 1953-59; chairman, Bovis 1959-66; CBE 1964; Chairman, City and Guilds of London Institute 1967-79, Life Vice-President 1979- 98; Vice-Chairman, Board of Governors, St Thomas' Hospital 1967-74; Chairman, Council, St Thomas' Hospital Medical School 1970-82; director, Marine and General Mutual Life Assurance Society 1971-86, deputy chairman 1976- 86; Chairman, Joint Mission Hospital Equipment Board 1973-78; Kt 1980; Chairman, Sussex Area, Royal School of Church Music 1981-85; married 1939 Mona McGarel Johnston (died 1991; two daughters); died Pulborough, West Sussex 12 November 1998.