THE SECOND World War cut off Andrew Balfour's career as an advocate and he became instead an unseen pillar of one of Fleet Street's leading trade and technical journal publishers, Benn Brothers Limited. A backroom man, Balfour was little known outside Bouverie House but his legal training and capacity for work made him invaluable to his colleagues there.
When John Benn succeeded his father as chairman of the United Kingdom Provident Institution in 1950, Industria Britannica, the journal he had founded to promote trade in Latin America, was left rudderless. Balfour took the tiller. Not long afterwards Fire Protection, almost a one- man monthly, was in crisis, the one man having resigned. Again Balfour stepped in. Only a trained lawyer could have learnt the facts of fire so quickly, enabling the journal to continue without any hiccups.
In January 1966 Benn's acquired Stonhill and Gillis, of High Holborn, publishers of the World's Paper Trade Review, Printing World and the quarterly Paper and Print. Mrs Noreen Gillis had her own style of management and handed over with relief to the tidy-minded Balfour. He moved into Holborn to take charge as secretary of the company. Thanks to him a not too happy staff, despite changes of location, were soon reconciled to their new ownership. In 1972 Phillips' fortnightly Paper Maker was added. To the credit of the Andrew Balfour treatment from these five journals (Benn's Printing Trades Journal monthly being the fifth) emerged two powerful weeklies each leaders in their fields, Paper and Printing World.
Balfour was called to the Bar in 1936 under the shadow of impending war. When it came, he volunteered as a soldier rather than seek the shelter of his then reserved occupation - unlike other young barristers of his generation who achieved fame and fortune by staying at home.
Enlisting as a private at Sandhurst in 1939, Balfour was soon recognised, in the jargon of the period, as officer material and was commissioned in the Coldstream Guards in 1940. He served throughout the war with quiet distinction. He landed in North Africa with the First Army and was appointed Military Secretary to Lieutenant-General Sir Charles Allfrey and later, before the Gothic Line battle in Italy in 1944, to General Keighley. He was appointed MBE (Mil).
Shortly before the battle it was my job as Brigade Major of 138 Infantry Brigade to get the Brigadier and assorted half-colonels together in a group ready to meet the then, to them, new general. As his motorcade approached, my task accomplished I slipped safely out of sight behind a convenient bush. Sixty seconds or so later I was joined by Balfour, he being of exactly the same mind. It was remarkable the pleasure this extraordinary coincidental meeting - we had known each other slightly in civilian life - gave us both. Nor did it do us any harm with our military masters, whose spontaneous gusts of laughter greeted our inevitable discovery.
The war over, Balfour was out of a job. To start again as a barrister would have meant a year at least of going to school with little prospect of briefs at the end of it. So he came to work for Benns at first as a sort of superior office boy. The Benn management soon discovered that with his intelligence, adaptability and personal charm Balfour could fill almost any gap.
Being moved around so frequently could have meant jealousies and envy. Instead, Balfour made nothing but friends. It is hardly an exaggeration to say that nearly all his fellow workers were indebted to him for legal advice always freely given, whether about business or purely personal problems.
For some years before retirement he was Secretary of Ernest Benn Limited Book Publishers, and of the Boys' Hostels Association, to whose affairs and fund he gave his usual meticulous care and a great deal of his own time. He was responsible too for the care and welfare of Benn pensioners. His wife, Joan, was fond of recalling how many of them made a point of telling her after the last pensioners' lunch he organised how kind and thoughtful Andrew always had been to them.Reuse content