Affable chairman of the Wales Tourist Board
Monday 06 September 2004
Gordon Samuel David Parry, teacher and public servant: born Narberth, Pembrokeshire 30 November 1925; Librarian and Housemaster, County Secondary School, Haverfordwest 1952-62, 1963-68; Warden, Pembrokeshire Teachers' Centre 1969-78; created 1975 Baron Parry; Chairman, Wales Tourist Board 1978-84; Chairman, Keep Wales Tidy Committee 1979-86; Chairman, British Cleaning Council 1983-87; Chairman, Milford Docks Company 1984-91, President 1991-2004; Chairman, Keep Britain Beautiful Campaign 1986-96; Chairman, Keep Britain Tidy Group (later Tidy Britain) 1986-91; Chairman, Clean World International 1991-96; married 1948 Glenys Incledon (died 2004; one daughter); died Llangwm, Pembrokeshire 1 September 2004.
Gordon Parry was the very epitome of Christian Socialism, whose principles he endeavoured to put into practice during a lifetime of public service. He held high office with a variety of national bodies in his native Wales, but it was his attachment to the Baptist faith of his youth and his passionate love of the county of Pembrokeshire that distinguished him from many politicos of his generation.
Born near the small town of Narberth in 1925, he never moved very far from his native patch, delighting in the people and landscapes of the westernmost county of Wales and content to put his talents at the service of the local community. He spoke with that striking burr, half-Welsh and half-Irish, that seemed to have grown out of the legendary past of Dyfed, land of The Mabinogion, which has seen countless waves of immigration from across the water.
Educated at Neyland in the south of the county and below the Landsker line that marks the Englishry from the Welshry in these parts, he was brought up English-speaking but had great affection for the Welsh language and regretted that he was unable to speak it with any fluency. The last time I saw him he had just been to a Welsh chapel in Cardiff, "because I love the sound of the language"; he had taught himself enough to hold conversations in it.
He was by profession a teacher, trained at Trinity College, Carmarthen, and holding posts at primary schools in Pembroke Dock, Neyland and Haverfordwest before becoming, in 1952, Librarian and Housemaster at the County Secondary School in Haverfordwest. From 1969 to 1978 he was Warden of the Pembrokeshire Teachers' Centre.
He once told me that he had been born a socialist and had imbibed its philosophy with his mother's milk and that was confirmed in his autobiography, A Legacy for Life (1996). A lifelong and largely contented member of the Labour Party, he stood as its candidate on four occasions: in Monmouth (against the Conservative Peter Thorneycroft) in 1959 and in Pembroke in 1970 and at the two general elections of 1974. In the last three of these the seat was held, by a margin of about two per cent, by Nicholas Edwards, who was to become Secretary of State for Wales.
It was during the campaign of October 1974 that, according to local folklore, he won his spurs as a Labour stalwart. Harold Wilson, the Labour leader, was expected to speak at a public meeting, but was several hours late reaching the hall and so, knowing his people as he did, Gordon Parry stood in the breach and entertained the audience with his considerable skills as a public speaker until Wilson eventually arrived. For this sterling service, it is said, Parry was made a life peer by James Callaghan in 1975.
Be that as it may, Parry's career blossomed soon afterwards. He was appointed to the Open University's Advisory Committee on Studies in Education, which he served as Chairman from 1978 to 1984, and to the British Tourist Authority. Tourism, and its special environmental requirements in the coastal and rural areas of Pembrokeshire, was given high priority in his long list of public appointments. He served with the Keep Wales Tidy Committee, the Keep Britain Beautiful Campaign, and Clean World International.
But it was as Chairman of the Wales Tourist Board from 1978 to 1984 that he came to prominence as a public figure. He led the board during a critical phase of its development, always with acumen and the affable style which became his trademark. He was an approachable, cheerful and genuinely friendly man who never lost the common touch, and who could initiate projects, often from behind the scenes, making sure they would be well funded and supported by the rich and famous, whose arms he was not averse to twisting if he thought they would lend their names to his schemes.
A regular visitor to Georgia in the United States, where he was made Grand Marshal of the Cherry Blossom Festival at Macon, he made a friend of President Jimmy Carter, who was duly informed about the attractions of Pembrokeshire.
Parry also had a fine regard for the handicapped, serving as a president of the Spastics Society, the South Wales Region of the National Society for Mentally Handicapped Children and the Society of Handicapped Drivers in Wales. This interest arose after he was involved in a horrific road accident in which a friend was killed; he was left with serious facial scars, which he camouflaged with a beard, and a permanent injury to his leg. One of his nicest anecdotes related how he was pulled out of the wreckage by a passing rugby team.
With typically droll humour, he gave as one of his recreations in Who's Who "watching the Welsh rugby XV win the Grand Slam".
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