Lord Grantchester: OBITUARY

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Kenneth Bent Suenson-Taylor had a distinguished career at the Bar, becoming a QC in 1971 and presiding, during the next 24 years, over various important tribunals: from those which investigated and drew up completely new procedures, such as the landmark VAT and Dairy Produce Quota Tribunals, to the immensely detailed Barlow-Clowes investigation, undertaken for the Joint Disciplinary Committee of the accountancy profession.

He was equally involved in the activities of the House of Lords. On succeeding as second Baron Grantchester after his father's death in 1976 he became a cross-bencher, was Deputy Chairman of Committees from 1988 to 1991, and a Deputy Speaker from 1990.

Born in 1921, he was educated first at Westminster and then at Cambridge, where he read Law at Christ's College and obtained a First. Rather more surprisingly, he also took to playing the clarinet in a Christ's College jazz band, the Original Christian Minstrels. Rumour has it that he was known as "Hotlips".

Suenson-Taylor had signed on for the Army on 3 September 1939, as soon as the Second World War was declared, but was not called up until after his first Cambridge stint. A cavalry regiment had been his aim but, after watching him on a horse for 10 minutes, the recruiting officer had simply remarked, "I think you'd be better in a tank." He landed in France shortly after D-Day, a lieutenant in the 11th Armoured Division, and fought in Belgium, Holland and Germany. The Royal Artillery Charitable Fund remained one of the main objects of his donations for the rest of his life.

Returning to Cambridge in 1945, he read for his LLB and again obtained First Class honours. It was here that he met his future wife Betty, who was a daughter of the founder of Littlewoods Pools, Sir John Moores, and was also reading Law. The attraction was mutual and immediate, and two years later, in 1947, the couple were married in St Margaret's, Westminster.

It is not always easy to capture the essence of a man from listing his achievements. The positions which Suenson-Taylor held in his legal career and in the House of Lords demonstrate his organisational abilities and keen brain, his integrity, his patience, and his ability to consider all points of view. But there was more to his character than this.

Suenson-Taylor was an impressive figure, with the blond Scandinavian good looks inherited from his mother's side of the family - the Danish Suensons. There was often a reserve, a gravitas in his manner which could make his presence almost intimidating. Members of his family and close friends and professional colleagues knew, however, that there was a very different dimension to his personality. He could always see the funny side, and extract humour from most events, from simple everyday happenings to the driest and most complex of legal matters, and his fund of stories was legendary.

Suenson-Taylor's love of sports continued all his life. It was shown in his rugby-playing days at Christ's, his 20 years as a member of the Bar Lawn Tennis Team, and his membership of the Lords and Commons Ski Team from 1978 to 1995, during which time he took part in the ski races in Davos, Switzerland, against the Swiss parliament every year.

His strong Christian beliefs were demonstrated in deeds rather than words. It was typical of Suenson-Taylor that, because he and his wife skied regularly in Zermatt, he undertook to organise fund- raising for the English church there. He was also a member of the Parochial Church Council and churchwarden at St John the Baptist, in Kingston Vale, Surrey - his local parish church. He was a generous benefactor of the parish church at Grantchester, in Cambridgeshire, a place which meant a great deal to him. It was not only the upkeep of the church building which concerned him; he cared about the life of the parish. Like his father before him he funded and always attended the children's party there every Christmas.

When Kenneth Grantchester died so suddenly he was returning from a holiday spent, not only with his much-loved wife, but with several of his six children and sixteen grandchildren: a family holiday by a loch in Scotland. Rather than his many successes, his first-class analytical brain, his athletic prowess, his sense of humour, perhaps it is this that best sums him up. He was a family man.

Barbara Clegg

Kenneth Bent Suenson-Taylor, lawyer: born 18 August 1921; called to the Bar, Middle Temple 1946; admitted ad eundem by Lincoln's Inn 1947; Lecturer in Company Law, Council of Legal Education 1951-72; QC 1971; President, VAT Tribunals 1972-87, Chairman 1988-90; a Recorder of the Crown Court 1975-89; succeeded 1976 as second Baron Grantchester; Chairman, Licensed Dealers' Tribunal 1976-88; President, Aircraft and Shipbuilding Industries Arbitration Tribunal 1980-83; Chairman, Dairy Produce Quota Tribunal 1984-95; CBE 1985; Chairman, Financial Services Tribunal 1988- 91; Deputy Chairman of Committees, House of Lords, 1988-95, Deputy Speaker 1990-95; married 1947 Betty Moores (three sons, three daughters); died 12 August 1995.

Comments