Obituary: Alan Eden-Green

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The Independent Online
Alan Beynon Eden-Green, public relations officer: born Stafford 12 April 1916; married 1939 Winifred Mead (two sons); died Larkfield, Kent 24 November 1997.

Alan Eden-Green capped a distinguished career in public relations by playing a key role in the initial creation and later success of the Industry and Parliament Trust, which has done much to foster mutual understanding between two very different worlds. To his professional life he brought the same special qualities which won him the love of his family and the affection of his many friends - sincerity, integrity, generosity of spirit, conscientiousness in thought and duty, and all combined with a wonderful sense of humour.

He was educated at the Roan School in Blackheath, but was denied study at a university because of the need to support his mother after his father's death. As a conscientious objector during the Second World War he performed voluntary work for Woolwich Council in the blitz, driving mobile canteens and putting up Anderson shelters for the elderly.

In 1949 he became Public Relations Officer for Lambeth, the start of his career in public relations. Among his imaginative ideas later as PRO for Wedgwood from the mid-Fifties to early Sixties were those of demonstrating the strength of their bone china by having a bus placed on four upturned cups, and installing "Wedgwood Shops" within department stores. He resigned when the company passed out of the Wedgwood family and a less congenial business style prevailed.

Eden-Green's great opportunity came when he joined British Oxygen (now BOC) in 1965 as Director of Public Affairs soon after Leslie (now Sir Leslie) Smith took over as Chairman. British Oxygen was one of those industrial dinosaurs which in the mid-Sixties sleepily bestrode the British scene. According to Smith, "Alan was prominent among the small group of senior managers who recognised the situation and (successfully) met the challenge of revolutionary change."

To British Oxygen Eden-Green brought a new concept of external public relations: openness and truth instead of short-term excuses and glosses. Internally he made a vital contribution to modernising the company's style of working: pompous bowlers and dark suits were out; forenames replaced "Mr or Mrs So-and-So"; managerial doors were kept open instead of shut. As Smith says: "Respect and authority became vested in people and not in their rank." In this new atmosphere ideas and imagination flourished.

Eden-Green brought the same concern for truth and integrity to his work for the Institute of Public Relations, of which he was a founder member in 1948 and President in 1961. He played a decisive part in turning public relations into a profession with a rigorous Code of Practice - and at the same time winning acceptance that public relations was central to the functions of management.

After retirement from BOC Eden-Green brought all this experience to the eventual launching of the Industry and Parliament Trust in 1977. His patience and obvious sincerity enabled the new trust to win all-party parliamentary support, opening the way for the Speaker and other officials of the House to be associated with it. They also enabled the trust to win the active participation of a widely representative industrial membership. In 1984 he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of the trust by its then President, Bernard (now Lord) Weatherill, Speaker of the House of Commons.

With Winifred, his much-loved wife, Eden-Green enjoyed a long and happy marriage and a richly fulfilled family life, first in Blackheath (where he made an "adventure-playground" pirate ship in the garden for his four boys), later in Teddington, where his motor cruiser was moored in the creek ready for a voyage to some jolly Thameside pub, and lastly in Lunsford in Kent where he, Winifred, and two of their sons and families lived in a cluster of old farm buildings. These centres of warm and open hospitality were the focuses of an astonishingly wide and varied circle of friends.

Alan Eden-Green was a man of wide reading and great intellectual curiosity. During the Second World War he helped his wife to produce and send out Vera Brittain's pamphlets, Letters from a Peace-lover, and in 1988 the two of them jointly edited a book of Brittain's letters under the title Testament of a Peace Lover. Although he remained a convinced pacifist to the end of his life (a mark of his generous optimism about human nature), he was none the less immensely curious about war and its causes, and he and I used to have long debates on the topic.