Sir Gordon Shattock: Politician who had a miraculous escape in the Brighton bombing

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The Independent Online

The night of 12 October 1984 is remembered for one of the IRA's most heinous, and (in its terms) effective, acts of terrorism. Just a few hours before the Conservative Party conference was due to open there, Brighton's Grand hotel was devastated when a time bomb hidden weeks earlier in a guest bathroom exploded just before 3am. The intended target was the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. She was unharmed but five people were killed and many injured.

One of the latter was Gordon Shattock, chairman of the Party's western area. Shattock and his wife were on the sixth floor; his wife, Jeanne, was in the bathroom next to that in which the bomb had gone off, and was killed. He was in bed in the adjoining room when the explosion occurred; he said he saw a flash as he was blown off the bed and found himself falling into space. The blast had created a shaft through the six floors of the hotel below the Shattocks' room.

Shattock had what he later called a miraculous escape; as he fell he rolled himself into a ball and when he hit the ground was very lucky that the concrete and other debris that fell with him did not land on top of him. Eventually, covered in dust, he was able to stagger, unaided, to an ambulance outside.

His injuries, amazingly, were mainly superficial but his vision and hearing were damaged. It was two days later, as he was about to leave hospital, that he learned his wife had died in the explosion.

Those calamitous events were to change Gordon Shattock's life. At the time, he was senior partner of a large and flourishing veterinary practice. His injuries forced him to retire from active involvement in the practice with which he had been involved since 1954.

Gordon Shattock was born in Exeter in 1928; he lived and worked there and played a considerable part in the life of the city. After qualifying as a vet from the Royal Veterinary College, London, in 1951, he returned to Exeter to practise. The St David's Veterinary Hospital, of which he was senior partner until 1984, became one of the largest and most advanced veterinary practices in the country, with state-of-the-art facilities. It is said that Shattock had the first computer to be used in a veterinary practice. He was one of the founders of the British Veterinary Hospitals Association, which promotes high technical standards of veterinary care.

Enforced retirement meant that he was able to devote more time and energy to his many other interests. He continued as a member of the executive of the Animal Health Trust, one of the foremost veterinary research institutions, until 1999 – a span of 20 years. He was a director, and later vice-chairman, of the Veterinary Drug Company, a wholesaler of animal medicines. His veterinary knowledge was valued both as member of the Council of Guide Dogs for the Blind and as the honorary veterinary surgeon for the Exeter guide dog training centre. A long-serving Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Farriers, he was the company's master in 1992.

Shattock was a member of the Exeter Health Authority from 1987 to 1993, and had a long association with Exeter Cathedral. He was chairman of the Cathedral's Music Foundation Trust, where he was particularly concerned with fund-raising to maintain the cathedral choir, whose music he loved. It was while working with the Trust that he met Wendy Sale, a widow whom he married as his second wife in 1988.

Education was another of his interests. He had been a fellow of the Woodard corporation, which sponsors academy schools, and was chairman of Grenville College, in Devon, 1982 to 1988, as well as a governor of several schools in the Exeter district. He was also a keen Mason, and served as Junior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England, 1997-1998.

While he was still in practice, his numerous interests meant that he was often away, leaving his colleagues to carry on the day-to-day veterinary routine in his absence. So, being a good manager, Shattock operated a bonus scheme to make sure they were fairly rewarded for the additional work. Staff Christmas parties were held at the picture-postcard thatched cottage he and his wife Jeanne had on the edge of Dartmoor; he enjoyed working in the garden they created there.

He was knighted in 1985 for his services to the Conservative Party and was made an honorary member of the British Veterinary Association in 1989 and a fellow of the Royal Veterinary College in 1994.

To meet Gordon Shattock was to enjoy the company of a seemingly quiet man whose unpretentious exterior gave little hint of the dynamo whirring under the surface. He epitomised a certain type of traditional Conservative: hard-working, a good, if strict, employer, and concerned to make a contribution to the society in which he lived.

Edward Boden

Gordon Shattock, veterinary surgeon, politician and charity worker: born Exeter 12 May 1928; married 1952 Jeanne Mary Watkins (died 1984; one son, one daughter), 1988 Wendy Sale; Kt 1985; died Exeter 10 April 2010.

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