Obituary: Sir Havelock Hudson

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The Independent Online
Sir Havelock Hudson was perhaps the last Chairman of Lloyd's of the old school. Not that Lloyd's was not already changing fast in his chairmanship, which lasted from 1975 to 1977; nor that cracks had not already begun to appear in the mahogany veneer which covered the market's turbulent and sometimes disreputable realities. But in 1977, when Sir Havelock was knighted by the Queen and also awarded the Gold Medal for services to Lloyd's, the market was still generally seen as an untroubled and tranquilly prosperous part of the City of London.

Hudson, moreover, assumed that the market was still dominated by men with as simple a sense of honour and straight dealing as his own, an assumption that was soon to be painfully disproved.

"Hal" Hudson began his career in the merchant navy, where he served, as the phrase went, "before the mast" after leaving Rugby School. He went to Lloyd's in 1938, but soon enlisted in the Royal Hampshire Regiment, from which he was seconded to the Parachute Regiment. He was badly wounded during the Normandy landings in 1944, and decorated for his part in the campaign.

He like to tell an amusing story about how one of his friends had inserted a ribald poem by Oliver St John Gogarty, "Lines to a Boon Companion", into the wrapping of his medals:

If medals were ordained for drinks

Or soft communings with a minx,

Or being at your ease belated,

By heaven! You'd be decorated.

The implication presumably was that even by the standards of a tough regiment he was thought to have had a notable capacity for enjoyment.

After the war he went back to Lloyd's, and was elected an underwriting member (a "working Name") in 1952. He was first elected to the Committee in 1965 and re-elected in 1970 and again in 1970. He was Deputy Chairman in 1968, 1971 and 1973, and Chairman from 1975 to 1977.

Perhaps surprisingly for a man who was something of a traditionalist, Hudson advised his successor and friend, Ian Findlay, to go ahead and build a new Lloyd's.

As an immediate past Chairman, Hal Hudson responded strongly to the news of the "Savonita" affair, which involved suspicions that the Committee had bowed to the interests of big brokers in dismissing claims by a comparatively small broker, Malcolm Pearson, that he had been pressurised into paying a fraudulent claim involving Fiat cars shipped from Italy to the United States.

Hudson called immediately and publicly for a thorough investigation to clear Lloyd's reputation. Equally characteristically, when approached as Chairman by Pearson, he had expressed surprise that there should be any doubt in the matter. If the claim was a good one, it seemed to him, it should be paid; if a bad one, it should not be paid, and there was an end of the matter. "Bat straight," he said, ignoring the fact that cricket has never caught on in Italy.

In his speech thanking the Committee of Lloyd's for his Gold Medal, Hudson expressed his philosophy in what now seem poignant words. "Lloyd's does not continue to hold its unrivalled position in the world," he said, "because of its [financial] capacity, but because of its honour, an old-fashioned word perhaps, but I am speaking to people who still know what it means." Some of his hearers did, but he must have been sad to learn over the last two decades that others cannot have had the faintest idea of what he was on about.

Havelock Henry Trevor Hudson, insurance underwriter: born 4 January 1919; underwriter, Lloyd's 1952-88, Deputy Chairman 1968, 1971, 1973, Chairman 1975-77; Kt 1977; married 1944 Elizabeth Home (two sons; marriage dissolved 1956), 1957 Lady Cathleen Eliot (died 1994; one son, one daughter); died Stanford Dingley, Berkshire 14 November 1996.