Old Ruthinian Association

Old Ruthinian Association - Obituary

A Personal Tribute to Denis Lunn 1906 – 2001

Author:Alan L.J.Bowen
Denis Lunn, Old Ruthinian, died peacefully in his sleep on 18 September 2001, just a few weeks away from celebrating his 95th Birthday.

I first met Denis in 1967 at a Memorial Service in Westminster Abbey. I was then just 17 years old and had been asked by Alfred Hill, the Headmaster of Ruthin, to represent the School at the Memorial Service of Sir Lewis Casson O.R., a well-known actor married to Dame Sybil Thorndike. I remember being told to meet a certain Denis Lunn outside the entrance to Westminster Abbey a few minutes before the Service began. So began the start of a friendship that has lasted all these years.

Of course at the time I was completely in awe of Denis. With his bowler hat, his dark City suit and his very posh and authoritative voice, I knew I had to be on my very best behaviour! It says a great deal for Denis that after the Service he immediately put me at my ease by inviting me back to his Office for lunch with his charming wife Esme. Denis told me that he himself had been educated at Ruthin School (1920 – 1923) and was also on the Board of Governors from 1958 until 1967. In addition he served as President of the Old Ruthinian Association from 1956 until 1966. It was evident from that first meeting that Denis had a great affection for Ruthin, despite the fact that he himself, in his own words “had no great achievements either as a scholar or as a sportsman”. In all my encounters with Denis in the following years his affection for the School only seemed to increase in its intensity.

Denis was a devoted family man with a beautiful intelligent wife, Esme, a daughter, Penny, and two sons, Richard and Christopher. Sadly Esme died not very long after Denis’ retirement from the City although not before he took her on a three month trip around the world, an adventure which he subsequently recounted by publishing his own book. He was later to write and publish several other books, mostly of an autobiographical nature.

As an individual Denis had very many excellent personal qualities. He was an absolute gentleman who liked ‘to do things properly’. Kind, polite and courteous, he was never afraid to state his views firmly and clearly. He was incredibly good at planning and organising. When my wife and I and our three children used to lunch with him at his home in Wadhurst, he had always compiled in advance a list of items which he wished to discuss with us. He also much preferred communicating by letter rather than by telephone, and used to complain a little bit about particular people who would only ever telephone him rather than write to him!

His love of the English Language was reflected in his massive appetite for reading books. He kept a record of everything he had read and quite frankly I used to feel ashamed that I had not even heard of some of the books about which he enthused. Appropriately his main 90th Birthday gift was a fund established by his family at a local bookshop so that he could easily continue to satisfy his hunger to read more and more literature. At the same time he abhorred television. He thought it was just such a waste of time to spend hours ‘watching the box’, although he did allow himself the luxury of watching the BBC News at 9.00 p.m.!

Denis was a great raconteur. He had a real gift for telling stories in an interesting and amusing way. For many years we had “an annual arrangement” whereby I would drive him from Kent to Ruthin to attend the Annual O.R. Reunion. He for his part would treat me to a sumptuous Sunday lunch at what he called the “transport caf ” (an upmarket Country House Hotel near Solihull) on our way back to Kent. The arrangement always worked well and during the many hours I was captive to Denis’ company he told me one story after another. Many related to Ruthin or his family. Many were about his experiences as a Banker working in Persia for 22 years (he was with the Imperial Bank of Persia which later became part of the British Bank of the Middle East), or about running the family business in the North of England on his return from overseas. Inevitably in later years I listened to the telling of the same stories several times, but I never minded, such was Denis’ way with words. I also very much appreciated his taste for high quality hotels and restaurants. Indeed my wife and I have on countless occasions passed judgement on such establishments by deciding whether or not Denis would have liked them.

I owe my career in Investment Banking to Denis. During my final year at University he offered to introduce me to Rodney Galpin, who held a senior position at the Bank of England. Mr Galpin (who later became Chairman of Standard Chartered Bank) then introduced me to several banks including Kleinwort Benson which offered me a place on their Graduate Recruitment scheme. I sensed that Denis derived a huge amount of pleasure from advising young men such as myself on career matters. Over many years he gave his advice to, and formed friendships with, a number of young Old Ruthinians. One such person was Peter Kay who also later joined Kleinwort Benson as a Graduate. It was fitting that Peter and myself represented all generations of Ruthinians at Denis’ funeral in Wadhurst on 3 October 2001.

Denis also liked to meet boys who were still at the School. Hence a few years ago he persuaded the Headmaster to allow him to establish the Annual Denis Lunn Essay Competition with prize money going to the winner. Denis’ son Richard, who himself is Senior Master at a school in Switzerland, usually marked the papers. It was typical of Denis that he then arranged to meet each prize winner in person by treating them to breakfast at the Ruthin Castle Hotel on the Sunday morning following an Annual O.R.Dinner.

A few years ago Denis commissioned an artist called Tony Klitz to paint a portrait of Ruthin School viewed from Big Side with a cricket match in progress. He did so with the full intention of bequeathing the painting to the School. Not only has he done this but he has also left explicit instructions that his “chauffeur” should transport the painting to the School and present it to the Headmaster. I shall consider it an honour to carry out the instructions of a man whom I grew to love and admire and whom I shall miss terribly on my next car journey to Ruthin.
Updated:Wednesday 04-05-2016 14:30

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