Obituaries : Michael Trinick

Martin Drury
Monday 19 December 1994 00:02 GMT

George Edward Michael Trinick, surveyor and land agent: born Redhill, Surrey 10 July 1924; Assistant Land Agent, National Trust Cornwall 1953-58; Secretary, National Trust Committee for Devon and Cornwall 1958-84; married 1950 (Maud) Elizabeth Lyo n (twosons, two daughters); died Lanhydrock, Cornwall 24 November 1994.

In fair weather or foul, nearly every visitor to Cornwall stands to benefit from the 30 years' work of Michael Trinick for the National Trust in that county. From his first headquarters at Cotehele, overlooking the Tamar, from Saltram on the outskirts ofPlymouth, and then from Lanhydrock, the estate which is most closely associated with him and where he made his home, Trinick and his colleagues pursued the cause of preserving the houses, gardens and coast of Cornwall.

Trinick had a fair claim to be unique in the annals of the trust. For a number of years he was both an agent - a qualified surveyor and manager - and a representative, responsible for the presentation of great houses. His approach to both roles was uncoventional. Certainly Trinick was the first person within the National Trust to furnish and exhibit the bedrooms, the kitchens, domestic offices and other everyday rooms in the houses under his care. The old kitchens at Compton Castle, the kitche n at Saltram and the 19th-century domestic offices at Lanhydrock are all fascinating to visitors, and have inspired the trust to pursue the policy at many other houses.

Trinick gave credit to the Cavendish family's presentation of Holker Hall in Cumbria for inspiring him in the first place. With his great ally, the antique dealer Nigel Neatby, he started to buy up suitable objects and furniture. Trinick was rarely troubled by the shortage of trust funds. He was a great accumulator of what he called "Unconsidered Trifles" and he was very, very persuasive. He understood, to quote an interview that he gave in 1992, that ``people are terribly shy of being generous, becausethey are terrified of being smothered with thanks'': the lady who summoned him to lunch and did not manage to mention that her intention was to give the trust some land that she owned; the lady who had tried to give away a substantial sum and could not find anyone to take her seriously; the man who offered to buy a stretch of coast, and was deeply offended when Trinick turned it down, but who was eventually won round to pay for a different headland; these and many more were somehow persuaded to find the money that was needed.

Michael Trinick was born in 1924 in Redhill, his mother having come back from Lagos, where his father was a naval commander, for the birth, and was brought up by his grandmother and aunt while his parents were overseas.

He caught meningitis as a young man and was forced to serve in London during the Second World War, lodging with the family of Gilbert Bryant, a distinguished entomologist and museum curator. Bryant was drawing up an index of country houses and this seemsto have provided the initial spark to Trinick's interest . After a year's posting with the Bombay Sappers and Miners in India in 1946 and three years at the Royal Agricultural College at Cirencester, he applied to and was eventually accepted by the National Trust in 1950 as assistant to the Chief Agent in London. Three years later he was promoted to Assistant Agent for Cornwall and his long association with the county began.

From the start Trinick was concerned not only with the houses in his care, but also the conservation of the land and coastline of the county. Long before the trust's national Enterprise Neptune campaign for coastal preservation was launched in 1965, Trinick had worked to build up the trust's ownership of the coast of Cornwall. When he arrived, the trust owned about 20 miles of coastline in scattered lengths mostly in narrow strips of cliff top and face. At his retirement, it was noted that the figure had gone up to 100 miles in length and by a much greater extent in acreage. (Today the trust protects 120 miles of the coast of Cornwall.) When he joined the trust in Cornwall, he found that in two places - the Dodman and Pentire headlands - the trust owned complete farms. This, he saw, afforded much better protection of the coastline than ownership of a narrow coastal strip. The principle has been followed in many other counties, as has the idea of amalgamating small farms and establishing holiday cottages in the set of redundant buildings. No wonder that Trinick was nicknamed "King Neptune" by a former chairman of the trust.

Trinick's methods of management were not taken from textbooks. One was to send a postcard to a member of staff to point out some details that needed attention. It is said that at his retirement party, one of the head gardeners produced his entire collection of well over 100 cards. And he kept his management team in touch with others by providing whisky in front of the fire in his office at 6pm before going home.

But he had always been a man for direct methods. As a former sapper, he took particular delight in blowing up the remains of wartime defences. With his colleague Richard Scale, he would tell the neighbourhood when an extra big bang was planned so that people could come to watch.

Michael Trinick was active in Cornish life. Early on, he joined with others in forming a Beach Lifesaving Committee which took the first steps, subsequently proved effective, in reducing the number of drownings off Cornish beaches. He was President of the Royal Institution of Cornwall in 1971-72, while in retirement he became a Deputy Lieutenant in 1988 and High Sheriff for 1989-90

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