Life remembered: Paul Zimmermann

 

Paul Zimmermann was a musician, magistrate and civil servant, with a larger-than-life personality and a physique to match. He relished life and lived it to the full, despite many years of uncertain health.

He was born in South London, his mother a teacher of children with special needs, his father a press photographer. Paul's love of music and liturgy was nurtured at St Philip's church, Kennington Road, since demolished. He played french horn at his school, Westminster City, and in the London Schools Symphony Orchestra, and also studied as a Junior Exhibitioner at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

He had intended to read divinity at Durham University, but a wise priest told him to take a year out. So he took a holiday job at Lambeth County Court, and then went into the Civil Service for the next 40 years. He also sang at Southwark Cathedral; when not at work or singing he was reading, conducting or being convivial over a pint.

In his professional life, he went through computing (in the Lord Chancellor's Department), liaison work, legislation (the important Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002), service as private secretary to ministers in both Houses of Parliament (Baroness Scotland and David Lammy, MP), and finally he was joint secretary to the Speaker's Conference on parliamentary representation.

Former colleagues from the Human Rights Division of the Ministry of Justice (where he was head of the domestic human rights unit) recalled Paul's succinct formula for entitlement to rights in the UK: "Being human and being here", which appeared in one of the many speeches he drafted for ministers, and was probably ascribed to a minister, as Zimmermann would have wished, professionally.

He served as a Justice of the Peace for 20 years and is remembered by a fellow magistrate as "a master at keeping the court in order. He would use the depths of his voice to bring order, and even the most deviant would stand to attention". He was sitting at Westminster Magistrates' Court just the day before he died, suddenly, at his home in Dulwich.

He retired early from the Civil Service owing to ill health, but went on supporting the arts, booksellers and brewers, and finally got around to taking his degree in music in 2010, through the Open University. Another friend wrote: "Rarely does one meet a man whose thirst for knowledge has been so comprehensively quenched, a man with a talent for conversing on any topic."

As a young tenor he was once engaged to play the adult narrator in a school performance of Michael Hurd's Hip, Hip, Horatio, the story of Lord Nelson.

The director of music at the school later recalled that "I had primed the children all to expect a rather large man with an operatic kind of voice, but I hadn't anticipated that Paul would arrive in full evening dress complete with a stuffed parrot sewn on to his shoulder, which remained throughout the dress rehearsal and the entire concert. 'Just entering into the spirit' was his reasoning. The kids loved him for it."

In 1987 he married Sally-Anne Spencer and they formed an eccentric but devoted partnership.

Garry Humphreys

Paul Zimmermann, musician, magistrate and civil servant: born London 26 April 1952; married 1987 Sally-Anne Spencer; died London 13 September 2012.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Recruitment Consultant / Account Manager - Surrey / SW London

£40000 per annum + realistic targets: Ashdown Group: A thriving recruitment co...

Ashdown Group: Part-time Payroll Officer - Yorkshire - Professional Services

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful professional services firm is lo...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before