AMONG the fictional personalities with which I endowed my particular friends at school in the 1930s, Allan Davis was always Chaucer's gentle knight. There was a Galahad quality about him even then, of riding into danger with an untroubled spirit. He was, also, though the son of a Welsh father and a Scottish mother, a quintessential Londoner. He was born in Ealing, educated in Kensington, and lived his public and private life almost exclusively 'within the sound of Bow Bells'. And in 1985 the real knighthood came, on his appointment as Lord Mayor of London.
Davis aspired first to be a dentist, itself a life of considerable patience and dedication, and won a place at Guy's while at school, but forfeited it in the war, during which he served in the Fleet Air Arm. He then chose to be an accountant, and rose through those ranks to become, in an accountant's age, senior partner in 1979 of his firm, Armitage & Norton.
At the same time in the Fifties as nurturing his young family in Ealing he developed his life of public service. This could have taken several forms: in politics in which he had an early interest, or in church bodies, and his sage counsel on financial matters was early in demand. However he made a conscious decision, as a concerned Catholic whose whole- hearted commitment to national mainstream affairs is still sometimes put to question by fellow countrymen, that this should be primarily to 'the City'. For many London lads the Dick Whittington story beckons. In due course of time - but what a tedious world of dogged, meticulous labour lies behind it - he reached the shrievalty, and then stepped into the golden coach itself.
Lord Mayors, no longer three times empowered, cannot do more than their year requires, and then fall back into the dignified muster-roll of the centuries. Davis was remarkable in that his 'love and service', the hallmark of his craft and his personal motivation, stretched well beyond his mayoral or shrieval years. He had a singular capacity for loyalty to causes great and small, and never neglected the minnows as the bigger fish of the mature years swam into his orbit.
In style he was relaxed, but this was not inattention or detachment but a refusal to be swamped in debate by the small change of gossip beyond his steely competence. As an accountant he never fell into the trap of imagining that successful enterprises consisted of discrete building blocks which could function if redeployed without regard to the nature of the enterprise as a whole. Misguided attacks on the integrity, say, of his old school, Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School, Kensington, or St Bartholomew's Hospital - the one a comparatively recent newcomer to London's distinguished educational establishments, the other the oldest public hospital in Europe - shocked him because of the failure of others to understand the dynamism of excellence.
Davis enjoyed the panoply and the ritual of City life while fully distinguishing the junket from the job. Supported by his wife Pamela and his platoon of grenadier-sized sons and grandsons, he recently marked his Golden Wedding at Painter-Stainers' Hall. It is there that his escutcheon neatly combines themes from his Benedictine parish in Ealing and the motto of his old school and a London
Davis's courtesy and thoroughness were, properly, a mite old-fashioned. In his youth he had been a notable cricketer, often deadly with his reach in the outfield. He enjoyed a cunning game of snooker. With all his twinkling humour there was an essential gravitas. He would, as a friend says, have looked grand in the Forum in a toga.
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