Monday, 18 October 2021

Obituary: Hamish Hale, 1926-2015

HAMISH HALE, a long-time resident of Shiplake and Mill Lane, Henley, died on January 4 at the Sue Ryder home

HAMISH HALE, a long-time resident of Shiplake and Mill Lane, Henley, died on January 4 at the Sue Ryder home in Nettlebed, aged 88.

Hamish was born in Largs, Ayrshire, in 1926, the second son of Helen and Victor.

Victor was a colourful character who had served in the Royal Flying Corps and as an administrator on the Gold Coast.

His parents ran the Victoria Hotel, which was a hotbed of intellectual activity in the Thirties and Forties, attracting a varied cast of writers, priests and politicians, including Jimmie Maxton, the leader of the Independent Labour Party, considered to be one of the greatest orators of his time.

Living by the sea, it is no surprise that Hamish developed a passion for boats and sailing, something that stayed with him for the rest of his life.



As a teenager, he also became interested in music, particularly jazz, and taught himself to play the guitar, piano and trombone.

He was educated at Glasgow High School and went on to Glasgow University Medical School at the age of 17.

He often said, rather disingenuously no doubt, that when he arrived to register, there were two queues and he chose the one — apparently at random — for the medical school and not architecture that he was also interested in. After his graduation in 1949, he married his childhood sweetheart Joan Gordon, to whom he was happily married for the next 65 years.

On completing the obligatory houseman jobs at the hospital, he was appointed assistant lecturer in physiology at the medical school.

During this time he spent six months working in the department of biophysics at King’s College, London, in Dr Maurice Wilkins’ lab.

Back in Glasgow, he was awarded his PhD for work in cellular chemistry and in 1954 he was promoted to senior lecturer at the university.

In 1957, he was given a Wellcome Fellowship to work for nine months in the medical physics department of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. During this time his young family lived much of their time in a caravan next to the institute.

In 1959, he left Scotland for good and moved with his family to Sevenoaks, having taken up a post at the Imperial Cancer Research Fund, where he set up the biophysics department of the pathology division.

In 1962, he was appointed senior lecturer in the department of pathology at St Thomas’ in London and honorary consultant pathologist to the Lambeth group of hospitals.

In 1964, he was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and a member of the Royal College of Pathologists.

Even when not at work, his leisure time was full of projects, such as digging a swimming pool in the garden, jamming with friends and taking the family off on treks to Brittany, Switzerland and the South of France in an old Dormobile.

In 1965, his academic life stopped when he was recruited by Searle, a US pharmaceutical company, to run their research laboratory in Buckinghamshire. It was at this point that he moved with the family to Shiplake.

He and Joan were sociable types, making many new friends in Shiplake, and their house was often full of visiting academics from abroad, not to mention the children of Joan’s brothers who lived in Hong Kong.

In 1976, Hamish also took over the running of Searle’s pharmaceutical and toxicology labs in the South of France. In 1983, he began the third stage of his working life when he left Searle to become an entrepreneur in his own right as well as an advisor and partner in a series of venture capital organisations, such as Apax partners, Scotia and Shield Holdings.

For the next 20 years he found this an exciting and stimulating career and he greatly enjoyed working for himself rather than others. During this period he and Joan also travelled extensively.

Having such a strong lifelong connection with water, Hamish had always wanted to live by the river and when the opportunity arose he and Joan moved to Millstream looking over to Marsh Lock.

Being a keen observer of water, the weir, the wildfowl, boats and steamers, he derived great pleasure and contentment from living there for the last 24 years of his life.

Even in retirement, he never turned his back on the world in which he had spent his life working. He was always scheming about possible new investments, checking on how the markets were performing and reading about new innovations in medical technologies.

In between times, he kept himself busy gardening, building model boats and painting watercolours, often of the river itself, or of scenes from earlier travels across the world.

He is survived by his widow Joan, his three children and six grandchildren. He will be greatly missed.

BARROW man John Winch is back sweeping the streets of Henley after a break of more than a year.

The 53-year-old has been re-employed by Biffa, the waste contractor for South Oxfordshire District Council, and given his old job back.

He left Henley in September 2012 to work at a hotel as a gardener and odd-job man. He had worked in the town for more than a year and had been praised for his work in readers’ letters to the Henley Standard.

Mr Winch, who lives in Wantage, said he had been working as a hotel porter in Wiltshire when he decided he wanted a change of scene again.

“Biffa were kind enough to invite me back and I was very happy to come back to Henley,” he said.

He said the town was “about the same” as he had left it, adding: “Henley is a tidy town but there are a few areas that need a bit of attention, like Reading Road and Northfield End.

“It has got a lot of character, history and fabulous architecture. I think the people here are very lucky to have that. It has got a great atmosphere and the people are very friendly.”

Mr Winch starts work at 6am and empties about 40 bins in the town centre, including Greys Road car park and Market Place, as well as picking up litter along the way. He also clears mud and weeds from the side of the road.

He uses a shovel, hoe, broom, litter-picker — and his “barrow”.

Mr Winch used to be an apprentice cabinet maker, which he believes gave him his taste for perfectionism.

He was then an assistant stage manager in the West End for 30 years and worked on major shows including 42nd Street. After that he worked from home as a freelance furniture restorer and then took various housekeeping jobs before being employed by Biffa.

So will he be staying around this time? Mr Winch said: “I take each day as it comes but Henley is a very nice town and I’m very proud and happy to be back.”

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