Obituary: Peregrine Fellowes

Elisa Segrave
Sunday 23 October 2011 02:11

PEREGRINE FELLOWES'S first job, after graduating from University College London as a civil engineer, was supervising bridge construction in the Sudan. Thus began a long relationship with Africa.

In the Second World War, from 1939 to 1942, he was involved in the Ethiopian campaign, including a secret mission to re-instate the Emperor Haile Selassie. He was responsible for the mobile Propaganda Unit, a printing press carried by two camels. Persuasive leaflets to Italians were pushed over barbed wire with bayonets. In 1943, he had his first bout of TB and spent a year in a clinic in Africa. His intrepid wife, Olwen, who had spent some of the war in South America, arrived to rescue him.

After the war, Fellowes was recruited as a diplomat and became a friend and colleague of Kim Philby. He served in the Foreign Office News Department under the legendary Sir William Ridsdale. He gained a reputation for being extremely well-informed and unusually outspoken for a diplomat. In 1948 he was posted to Cairo with Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean. Having worked unwittingly with all three spies, and finding Burgess hilariously funny, he was then horrified by their treachery. He always assumed that he must have been investigated as a possible "fourth man".

Another bout of TB finished his career in the Foreign Office and in the mid-1950s he joined Shell. In 1960 he returned to Africa as head of Shell in Nigeria. In that era of Nigerian independence, he and his wife made many friends and were dismayed by the subsequent civil war. In the 1960s, African friends would visit their house in East Sussex, and be baffled by such appurtenances as the Gun Room.

Back in London, Fellowes was appointed Controller of Government and Trade Relations for Shell International. The knowledge he acquired on his travels for Shell in the Middle East he used later in his work for peace. He held two passports, Arab and Israeli.

He was one of the first to grasp the necessity of a global energy policy, as he demonstrated in his pamphlet "The Energy Equation", written for the Conservative Political Centre during the energy crisis of 1973 after the oil-producing Arab countries had upped their oil prices.

His father had been killed in the First World War when Peregrine was three. The subsequent eight years with his widowed mother gave him a lasting respect for women. In 1923 his mother remarried, to Arthur Byrne, brother of a later Abbot of Ampleforth.

The young Peregrine converted to Catholicism and was educated at Ampleforth. When he married Olwen Stuart-Jones in 1935, she took Catholic instruction. An independent-minded woman, Olwen had difficulty with the idea of Hell. A compromise was reached. If she could agree to Hell, said the Catholic bishop, she did not need to believe that there was anyone in it.

After leaving Shell Fellowes worked for the Ford Foundation, Chatham House, the Council of Churches and the Centre for Policy Studies. He also produced The New Middle East, a magazine designed to promote understanding between Arabs and Israelis. When Olwen died in 1980 of cancer, he was unable to look after himself. Luckily in 1982 he married Lady Maureen Dormer. Although domestically unskilled, she shared his love of music and social life - "they would cross England for a sandwich" said his stepdaughter.

Two nights before he died, Peregrine Fellowes went to Evening Mass in Chipping Campden, his marital home. He appeared to sleep throughout but afterwards buttonholed the priest, to protest at the sloppy translation of the Gospel. He will be much missed bowling through the town in his electric chair.

Peregrine Edward Launcelot Fellowes, diplomat and businessman: born Calgary, Canada 8 July 1912; married 1935 Olwen Stuart-Jones (died 1980; four sons), 1982 Lady Maureen Dormer (nee Noel; two stepdaughters); died Chipping Campden, Gloucestershire 15 February 1999.

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