Obituary: Lord Craigmyle

AN AMERICAN who created a name for himself at the post-war Oxford Union thus began his maiden speech: "After a term and a half, Mr President Sir, I feel I have made it. I am on first-name terms with the Editor of the Isis and the Lord Craigmyle."

The fact that Donald Craigmyle - "Craigie" to most of his many friends - was distinctly one of the "personalities" of the Oxford of this period represented the successful resolution of a serious personal problem. He was torn between acute shyness and an intense love of people and life. He suffered from this, far from rare, conflict in a much more painful sense than do most people, and it never really left him. The successful manner, however, in which he came to terms with it was the key, at least to a great extent, to his many considerable achievements in later life.

Thomas Donald Mackay Shaw was born in 1923, and became the third Lord Craigmyle on the death of his father in 1944. (The first, ennobled in 1929, had been another Thomas Shaw, a former Lord Advocate of Scotland.) The previous year, on leaving Eton, he had joined the RNVR as an ordinary seaman and he took his seat in the House of Lords, in 1945, in his bell- bottomed naval uniform.

At Oxford, where he read Modern History at Corpus Christi College, he was occasionally visited by his mother, to whom he was very close and to whom he was doubly indebted. Through her, a Mackay, the daughter of the first Earl of Inchcape (eminent shipowner and chairman of P & O), he came into an enormous fortune. But he also inherited, in full measure, his mother's wealth of gentleness and charm.

Blessed by a total absence of snobbery and a splendid gift for mimicry, Donald Craigmyle was invariably the centre, at Oxford gatherings, of a convivial knot of laughing friends. This was especially the case when his mother was present. As she sat in a chair he would crouch or kneel at her side while introducing his friends. His constant fingering of his trim but vigorous red beard was the only outward sign of his nervousness, while his infectious bursts of laughter were famous throughout the university. His beard, moreover, contributed to his jaunty air, somewhat belied by a slightly sad look in his fine-set eyes when his face was in repose. Few suspected his inner struggle and most presumed he was naturally gregarious.

No successful coming to terms with so pronounced an extrovert-introvert private conflict can be achieved without some paying of a psychological price. So it was with Craigmyle in the post-war years; but his resilience, strengthened by faith, was rewarded by his love-match with Anthea Rich, the gifted artist daughter of the High Anglican Canon Edward Rich. They were married in 1955, Donald following Anthea into the Roman Catholic Church in 1956. Their marriage was a singularly successful partnership in every sense. They had four sons and three daughters; to be the head and centre of a closely knit family was a source of lifelong joy to him.

His distinctly non-combative and sensitive nature would not have fitted him for a conventional business career. But the happy combination of financial flair with his other qualities had an important result. His formation in 1959, with a friend, of Craigmyle & Co, marked the beginning of Britain's most successful and longest-established fund-raising consultancy.

By the world at large, however, Donald Craigmyle is best remembered for his extensive involvement in charitable activities, predominantly of a Roman Catholic nature. He was also, in his private capacity, spectacularly generous on a scale unknown to most of his friends and even, sometimes, to his own family.

Among the many charitable associations with which he was involved, as chairman, director, active member or substantial contributor, there were at least a dozen in the Roman Catholic field, and an equal number in the secular world. Some of these activities overlapped into both groups such as the Linacre Centre, the Pro-Life Group and the Society for the Protection of the Unborn Child. He was, from 1989 to 1995, President of the British Association of the "Sovereign Military Order of Malta" - that order of the Knights of Malta whose existence in Britain has been likened to Voltaire's description of the Holy Roman Empire as "neither holy, Roman nor an empire". In 1993 he was awarded the prestigious papal honour of Knight Commander with Star of the Order of Pius IX.

His long service on the board of management of London's Hospital of St John and St Elizabeth and his presidency of the St Thomas Fund for the Homeless (to say nothing of his work with the St John's Ambulance Brigade) contributed to his ease of manner with the sick and dispossessed. It is no exaggeration to say that his rapport with such men and women was truly remarkable.

He was a long-serving member and ultimately President of the Catholic Union of Great Britain, a body monitoring public affairs within a Roman Catholic and general socio-moral context. This usefully complemented his work, for over half a century, as spokesman on such matters in the House of Lords.

The fact that his London home was also his office (he also had a house in Knoydart, in the West Highlands) enabled him to combine work with spending as much time as possible with his family, whose members frequently accompanied him on working pilgrimages to Lourdes and elsewhere. His large and lovely house in the Boltons was also the venue of many notable social and charitable events.

There were many examples, on such occasions, of the same winning ways he had exhibited at Oxford. A guest who felt momentarily out of things might suddenly have a sausage or canape popped into his or her startled but delighted mouth by an ever-vigilant host.

Thomas Donald Mackay Shaw, philanthropist: born 17 November 1923; succeeded 1944 as third Baron Craigmyle; chairman, Craigmyle & Co 1959-98; Secretary- General, British Association, Sovereign Military Order of Malta 1979-83, Vice-President 1983-89, President 1989-95; President, Catholic Union of Great Britain 1993-98; married 1955 Anthea Rich (three sons, three daughters, and one son deceased); died London 30 April 1998.