Sunday, 19 July 2015

Obituary: Bernard Quinn (1926-2010)

This blog, as I write elsewhere, is a kind of museum in cyberspace covering mainly news and features relating to Budleigh Salterton and the surrounding villages of the Lower Otter Valley.  

Inevitably it’s turning out to be a useful archive for people wanting to stage exhibitions at Fairlynch Museum, or simply to fill gaps in research, with that useful search engine box in the top left corner.

So I was a bit put out to discover that somehow I hadn’t included the following appreciation of the life of Museum volunteer Bernard Quinn, although it was published on the Devon Museums’ Fairlynch site on 2 February 2012.

Well, I can’t get everything  right.  Anyway, here's the missing post:

Although some years have passed now since his death at the age of 84, on 9 April 2010, Bernard Quinn, pictured above, is well remembered at Fairlynch for the cheerful and friendly approach with which he greeted visitors and fellow-volunteers, as well as for his spirit of dedication to the Museum.  Sam Richards, a former colleague and his closest friend writes:

Bernard Quinn came from the Birkenhead area which he left to serve in the Royal Navy in the mid 1940s. Following his service period during World War Two he worked for some time in the Civil Service but the wanderlust, no doubt nurtured during his naval years, led him to find employment in what was then described as a 'West African Merchant House' in the early 1950s.

The company was one of the lesser known Unilever operations. Whilst it was unknown in the UK it was in fact one of the largest companies operating in Nigeria, the Gold Coast and Sierra Leone and was called G.B. Ollivant Ltd, part of the United Africa group of Unilever. Bernard spent some time as a manager, mainly in Eastern Nigeria based in Port Harcourt, and performed in various capacities. 

For a while, for example, he used to tour the region visiting various villages with a large metal box full of money to pay farmers for their palm oil kernels which the company shipped back to the UK for Unilever's soap industry. The import side of the business covered a very wide range of merchandise such as foodstuffs, drinks, perfumes, medicines and a very wide range of hardware such as tools, enamelware, agriculture equipment and fishing materials.

Unfortunately in the 1960s Bernard fell ill with mysterious intestinal problems and the company repatriated him to the UK. He spent time in London hospitals then in Manchester. His condition was intermittent and lasted for some years. Eventually the problem was correctly diagnosed in the Manchester Royal Infirmary and there what proved to be the last of several operations was successful although it did leave him with his diabetic condition for the rest of his life. It is fair to say he was a walking miracle because the operation had been 'A First'.

Since this health problem was intermittent for much of the time he was able to lead a normal life and the company, G.B.Ollivant Ltd, employed him as a Buying Manager in the head office in Manchester where we worked as colleagues because I held the same position.

On holiday with a friend 

During one of his less troublesome periods he met and eventually married Hilma and theirs proved to be a very good match. They had a long and happy marriage in spite of his recurring health problems, which was not only sometimes demoralising for him but very stressful for Hilma. Sadly she pre-deceased him.

Before moving to Green Mews in Budleigh Salterton on his retirement, he and Hilma had lived in Sale near Manchester and then Marple, Cheshire in an attractive flat roofed bungalow with a garden area so large they found a horse wandering around in it one day.

Bernard was a private man and never really spoke about himself or his family. However, without ever prying, he was a very good listener and made everyone he talked to feel they had told him something very interesting. He had a keen sense of humour and an inquisitive nature regarding a wide range of subjects, including world affairs.

Since our retirements to separate parts of the UK,  we only visited each other three or four times a year but I do miss him, his enquiring mind and his ready smile.

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