Obituary: Sir Ronald Harris
Saturday 11 February 1995
Ronald Harris had two very different careers, in both of which he achieved distinction, although it was the second which gave him the deeper satisfaction. The first was as a distinguished civil servant, the second in the service of the Church Estates Commission.
After an education at Harrow and Trinity College, Oxford, Harris entered the Civil Service and was appointed to the India Office and Burma Office, then one of the most politically fraught areas of government. In 1939, however, he was selected to be Private Secretary to the Secretary of the Cabinet, then Sir Edward Bridges, a post he held until 1943 in some of the most intensive and demanding years of the Second World War. Thereafter he returned to his parent department, at the start of an exceptionally varied Whitehall service.
In the 20 years from 1944 to 1964 he became his Minister's Principal Private Secretary, enjoyed a year's education at the Imperial Defence College, undertook two tours of duty both at the Treasury and the Cabinet Office, and from 1955 to 1960 was Second Crown Estate Commissioner, an experience which turned out to be directly relevant to his later responsibility for the landed property of the Church.
In 1964 Harris was persuaded to move from the service of the State to that of the Church. For some four years he was Secretary to the Church Commissioners and in 1969 succeeded Lord Silsoe in the key appointment of First Church Estates Commissioner, serving in that capacity until 1982.
The administration of the Commissioners' office at Millbank was not in itself an unduly heavy burden for a man of Harris's ability and experience. His tenure at Millbank was however marked in two principal ways. First, his financial control was strict and efficient, but not short-sighted. Significant improvements were achieved in both the stipends and the pensions of the clergy. From 1978 to 1982 he was, additionally, Chairman of the Church's Central Board of Finance. There can be no doubt that, in retirement, Harris was grieved that his tight, but productive, control was not in all respects continued.
The second important feature of his time at Millbank was the trouble he took over the Commissioners' relationship with the General Synod. While standing firm over those matters in which the Commissioners exercised an independent responsibility, he took endless trouble over his contributions to the Synod's debates and was ever ready to explain any matter which excited interest. Together with Dame Betty Ridley, the Third Commissioner, he inaugurated an era of understanding and respect for Millbank's work.
In a busy life Ronald Harris found room for many outside activities including the Chairmanship of Benenden School Council and the Friends of the Yehudi Menuhin School which was almost literally on his doorstep. Sadly, for a man to whom family life meant much, he was twice a widower. More happily both his children and his stepchildren formed a close family unit.
- 1 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 2 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 3 Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
- 4 The bubble bursts for Sodastream
- 5 If you think Russell Brand’s new book is confused, you should read what his critics have to say about it
'Nasa Confirms Six Days of Darkness in December': No, they don't - it's a hoax
Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
The bubble bursts for Sodastream
Russian politician says Apple CEO Tim Cook should be 'banned' from country after coming out as gay
'Santa Claus' dead: John Moore starred in Coca Cola and Morrisons adverts
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything
£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...
£28000 - £35000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...
£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...
£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...