Obituary: Guy Clutton-Brock

Judith Todd
Thursday 16 February 1995 01:02

Guy Clutton-Brock was the first white man to be declared a national hero by the government of Zimbabwe.

His connection with the country dated back to 1949 when he and his wife, Molly, went to work at St Faith's Mission, an Anglican centre near Rusape in what was then Southern Rhodesia. In 1971 he was expelled by Ian Smith's regime and deprived of his citizenship after his co- operative Cold Comfort Farm, a symbol of non-racial progress, was declared an Unlawful Organisation. He left with sadness, but no acrimony: ``I am glad to share in the fellowship of the dispossessed . . . I regard the present regime as only temporary and myself as a continuing citizen of Rhodesia, so expect to see Zimbabwe again before long. I therefore say goodbye to nobody.''

In his time in Rhodesia, Clutton-Brock helped craft (in 1957) the constitution of Rhodesia's African National Congress, which called for a true partnership of all inhabitants, a completely integrated society, and equal opportunities for all, and stated that advancement was possible only through ``non-racial thinking and acting''. Rhodesia's ANC was banned in 1959, and Guy Clutton-Brock was detained for a month by the government. The authorities promised freedom if he agreed to leave the territory of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. He refused, eventually won an unconditional release from prison, and returned to his work in Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Botswana, though regarding Rhodesia as his home base.

In Botswana his friendship with the Khamas, Tshekedi and Seretse (later Sir Seretse Khama, the first elected president of independent Botswana in 1966), led to the establishment of the Bamangwato Development Association, of which Clutton-Brock was an honorary director from 1961 to 1962, and which was involved in community development. The African Development Trust, set up in London by Michael Scott and Peter Kuenstler to support the work with which Clutton-Brock was involved in Rhodesia, Nyasaland and Botswana, led in turn to the founding of the Intermediate Technology Development Group by E.F. Schumacher and Julia Canning- Cooke.

Clutton-Brock saw his book Dawn in Nyasaland (1959) as a ``contribution to a greater understanding between different sections of the community concerned both here and overseas''. The basis of his work was always that ``from greater understanding, perhaps more generous and constructive action may follow''. Within this book was also a mature statement of his personal beliefs, and his identification with ``the common man''. "Every man is the common man. He is eternally individual, with an infinite diversity of gifts and experience. He is also a member of the community of Man, that spiritual communion into which he is individually born. We are all members of this community of man. We withdraw ourselves wholly or in part when we pursue primarily our own ends, our own individual, sectional, denominational, class, national or racial ends.''

Guy Clutton-Brock was born in 1906 and educated at Rugby and Magdalene College, Cambridge. He hesitated over a call to serve the Church but opted for the Borstal service in London. Here he met Molly Allen who was teaching handicrafts to the boys, and in 1934 they were married, becoming the indivisible ``CBs''. After the reorganisation of the Probation Service, Guy became the Principal Probation Officer for the London Metropolitan Area. In charge of Oxford House in the East End during the Second World War, he turned it not only into a bomb shelter, but into a community centre, where the CBs' daughter, Sally, was born.

From here Clutton-Brock went to Berlin as head of the Religious Affairs Section of the British Control Commission, but he resigned in 1946 to work for Christian Reconstruction in Europe. Stifled by bureaucracy, he left in 1947, took a tiny cottage in Pembrokeshire and spent nearly three years working as a farm labourer.

After the Clutton-Brocks had been expelled from Rhodesia, friends found them a little cottage in Wales from where, over the next few decades, a stream of encouragement and quiet wisdom flowed in letters. The CBs kept in close touch with many of those outside Rhodesia who were fighting for Zimbabwe, regularly sending clippings from the British press. Eventually, in 1980, independence for Zimbabwe was won and they were able to return for a final visit.

Guy Clutton-Brock was buoyed by a quiet optimism that the world's crises of inequality were about to be tackled and solved. There was never room in his life for despair: ``Partly we don't know what to do, partly we cannot face the implications of doing what the wisdom of the ages tells us. There are however signs that the tide is now turning, and that a big and generous impulse is about to move mankind." The life of Guy Clutton- Brock was a demonstration of that big and generous impulse.

Judith Todd

Arthur Guy Clutton-Brock, agriculturist and social worker: born Northwood, Middlesex 5 April 1906; married 1934 Molly Allen (one daughter); died Denbigh, North Wales 29 January 1995.

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