Obituary: Hugh Faulkner

Mervyn Kohler
Thursday 08 May 1997 23:02

The charitable sector is a rich seam in British society, un- mirrored by anything in the non-Anglo-Saxon world. Hugh Faulkner was central to the tradition.

In particular, he put on the map older people, asthma, and ME. His long involvement with Help the Aged (of which he was the founder, and director from 1961 to 1983) brought concern about older people to the fore.

Unconcerned with official favour, on the White Paper in 1980 he penned the rather percipient comment: "`Growing Older' is a complacent document . . . there is no hope for any immediate improvement for today's elderly." But he was not an armchair critic and his considerable energies went into running a very vigorous voluntary organisation which became under his direction one of the "top ten" fund-raising charities with an annual income of pounds 10m. His belief was that older people should be part of society, not marginalised in special institutions, and the work of Help the Aged put great emphasis on housing, transport and environmental services.

Hugh Faulkner was born into a modest family in Leicestershire who could not afford to support his passion for music. He eventually qualified instead as a chartered secretary and went into administration and business, working from 1936-46 in the educational administration of the City of Leicester and then with Church Brothers estate agents.

His firmly held moral views, which as a pacifist caused him problems in 1940, were central to his life and he was always committed to his country and its values. The 1940s and 1950s saw him working increasingly with a group of Christian businessmen who took the view that a successful business should develop profits which could be applied to charitable purposes. Within this context, he became the Honorary Director of Voluntary and Christian Service in 1954, and from this base other charitable interests developed.

Not a man for retirement, at the age of 67 Faulkner became Director of the Asthma Research Council. He boosted its income five-fold, and built up the local network to over 150 branches. Asthma sufferers have enjoyed scant sympathy and tolerance in the past, but his work has contributed to a better public understanding, and a flow of new research projects.

Hugh Faulkner's wife, Anne, was associated with him in all his crusades, and it was through her suffering from Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) that both of them took on this cause, founding the Persistent Virus Disease Research Association in 1992 to support research into ME. Faulkner refused to accept the initial view that ME sufferers were somehow malingerers. ME is now recognised as a legitimate medical condition.

Faulkner's Christian commitment was a vital part of his life. Some of his colleagues might have felt that he was a workaholic - others that he was a relentless taskmaster. But he demanded nothing of others that be did not perform himself. If the centrepiece of his life was his work and identification with older people, his aspiration to secure "a more abundant life for older people" is one to which we can all subscribe. It is probably a more relevant vision today than when he formulated that view.

Hugh Branston Faulkner, charity administrator: born Lutterworth, Leicestershire 8 June 1916; Director, Help the Aged 1961-83; OBE 1980; Director, Asthma Research Council and Asthma Society 1983-88; Honorary Director, Persistent Virus Disease Research Foundation 1992-97; married 1954 Anne Carlton Milner (one son, one daughter); died 6 April 1997.

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