Lord Aberconway (1913-2003)
Charles Aberconway died at the beginning of February, just a few months short of his 90th birthday. This is not a full obituary; that appeared in the Times. Rather I have attempted here to give a rather more personal view of someone with whom I sat on the committee of the Old Etonian Fives Club for over 50 years and came to greatly respect and admire.
Charles was born with more than his fair share of gifts. As the Times obituary reported he "inherited his forebears' immense energy and intelligence". At Eton he was Captain of the Oppidans and Keeper of Fives, an unusual combination of academic achievement and sporting prowess.
Charles Aberconway was a leading figure in industry; Chairman of John Brown and English China Clays; a deputy Chairman of Sun Alliance and Westland Aircraft and a director of the Nat West. He had inherited from his Father a passion for horticulture and the famous gardens at Bodnant; he was for many years a vigorous and innovative President of the Royal Horticultural Society and as such very involved with the organisation of the Chelsea Flower Show.
Yet, despite all these varied and time-consuming activities, Charles never lost his interest and involvement in Fives. He was a key figure in reviving the Old Etonian Fives Club after the War; he was our Chairman right up to the early 80s and then became our Joint President. Right up to two years ago, we held our committee meetings under his guidance at either his office or house. I was Chairman under him for about ten years and valued greatly his advice and support.
His involvement with the EFA was not so great, but he will always be remembered for initiating the Aberconway Cup for Fathers & Sons, which has proved such a successful tournament. As far as I know, this was entirely Charles' idea; I well remember him floating out the idea at an OEFC committee meeting. It was also in keeping with the man that although neither of his sons was very interested in Fives, he understood the value of initiating such a competition.
Less well known is the fact that it is entirely due to Charles that I became Chairman of the EFA. He always took a keen interest in the affairs of the Association and in 1995 was a little worried about what might be happening. It was he, who said to me, "Come on, Michael, I think we had better put you forward as the next Chairman". I have to say that nothing was further from my mind at the time. I had just retired and was looking forward to spending more time on the beaches of the south of France. But Charles Aberconway was not a man to whom you said, "No." At the time, I thought what am I letting myself in for? Now, as I retire as Chairman after eight years, I am delighted he did so.